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  • Imagine a Sopwith camel biplane which first saw service in 1917 during the first world

  • war and then using the same aircraft in combat missions right up until the last days of the

  • Vietnam war in 1975. That's a service life of 58 years which also spans a massive change

  • in aircraft technology.

  • Now look at the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, aka the BUFF or Big Ugly Fat Fellow, last

  • ones were built the same year as I was born, 1962, 58 years ago. At that age you would

  • think it would have been retired long ago, but with ongoing upgrades, they could be in

  • service till 2040 at a minimum and even pushing into the 2050's and possibly beyond, that's

  • 100 years old. So why would they keep them in service for that long and how are they

  • going to make a very analogue aircraft relevant in the era of digital warfare.

  • This video is sponsored by brilliant

  • The USAF has gone through a lot of aircraft in its history with some coming and going

  • within a few years and yet others like the C-130 cargo plane, the A-10 Warthog and the

  • C-5 Galaxy, which we spoke about in the last video have been around for at least 40 years

  • and in the case of the C-130, for 64 years but none are likely to outlast the B-52.

  • So what makes the B-52 so different that it should be kept going for so long?. Why would

  • they still use the same aircraft that was active in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962,

  • the Vietnam war, that flew 24/7 for 8 years fully loaded with nuclear weapons around the

  • Soviet Union, then through both Iraq wars, Afghanistan and recently against ISIS.

  • Pilots joke that if you flew one upside down, chicken bones from Siagon would fall out.

  • Some of the aircrews today are the children and even grandchildren of previous B-52 crews,

  • its a true multi-generational plane They also joke that once they have flown their

  • B-1s and B-2s to the boneyard, they will fly them home again in a B-52, the irony is that

  • it may turn out to be true. Step into the cockpit of a B-52 and your stepping

  • into a 1960s aircraft, which flies like a 1960s aircraft and yet it's still here.

  • But it wasn't meant to be this way, it was due to retire in 1996, which slid to 2000,

  • then 2003 and eventually ended up at 2040, and now it's 2050 and may even go further

  • into the future. Part of the reason is that it can still do

  • the job it was designed for exceptionally well, to drop bombs, lots of them, of every

  • type that is available in the US arsenal and to do that almost anywhere, air defences allowing.

  • Its also still a major deterrent, sending in the B-52s even if it's just to fly around

  • doing reconnaissance projects the power of the US military to both real and potential

  • enemies. Another more pressing reason is that its eventual

  • replacement, the B-21 Raider isn't expected to reach its initial operating capability

  • until at least 2030, barring technical issues and cost implications which plagued earlier

  • programs like the B-2 and F-35. And on the issue of cost, the B-52 was bought

  • and paid for a very long time ago with the last B-52H's being built in 1962 and those

  • working out at about $88 million each in today's money.

  • Compare that to B-21 Raider, each one of those will cost in the region of $550 million with

  • the total program cost including R&D at $97 Billion for what is believed to be about 135

  • aircraft but the final number is yet to be determined.

  • Updating the B-52 will be expensive but nowhere near what developing a new aircraft would

  • be. But of course, you will still have a 1960s aircraft but with lots of new electronics

  • and engines. The thing is that no one has ever kept a front line combat aircraft in

  • service for what could be at least 80 years and more likely a 100 years.

  • Even so, there have been a lot of changes over the years since the last B-52s were built.

  • It started out as a front line high altitude nuclear bomber but as air defences improved

  • in the Soviet Union it took on roles more suited to its capabilities and were air defences

  • were less sophisticated. But the days of carpet bombing like in Vietnam

  • and gravity dropped nuclear weapons is over, now its more about using standoff weapons

  • like cruise missiles at a distance or where more direct bombing allows, precision-guided

  • ordinance is used. There are also on any given day more B-52s

  • available for immediate action than B-1s or B-2s. Giving up the B-52 would greatly lessen

  • the long-range bombing capabilities of the USAF, something which has diminished a lot

  • since the end of the cold war. They have even bought back ones from the boneyard to replaced

  • badly damaged or crashed ones in recent years. The B-52s huge fuel capacity not only gives

  • it a very long range of over 14,000km carrying 35 tons of bombs on one tank full, it can

  • also be refuelled in the air giving it an almost unlimited range, engine oil allowing.

  • That also allows it toloiteraround at a safe distance but herein lies another

  • problem. The engines its uses are the Pratt & Whitney's

  • TF33. Eight are used on each B-52, two of which are placed together in four engine nacelles,

  • two on each wing. These were developed in 1958 and manufactured

  • up until 1985 with over 8000 being produced. The 744 B-52s accounting for nearly 6000 of

  • them. But since then engine technology has improved greatly becoming more powerful and

  • more efficient, so continuing to use 1950s tech engines has kept the cost of running

  • the B-52 high in both maintenance and fuel. One of the problems about fitting newer more

  • powerful engines is that it could create damaging stress on the wings and airframes that won't

  • show up until after they are fitted. There were no 3D computer models or stress

  • simulators back in the 50s and even now it's a difficult engineering balancing act to pull

  • off matching the TF33s closely in weight and size and still giving improved performance

  • and economy without causing the wings to fall off. Replacing the engines and wings together

  • would push up the costs dramatically. There have been several attempts to re-engine

  • the surviving aircraft, as early as the mid 70's Boeing looked at replacing the engines

  • and wings. In 1982 Pratt & Whitney suggested replacing

  • them with PW2000 engines. In 1996 Rolls Royce proposed fitting them

  • with RB211-535s on a lease-purchase scheme but that was rejected because the USAF was

  • against leasing combat assets. In 2003 and after the cost of maintaining

  • the TF33's had tripled in a decade, a $4.7 billion engine refitting program was looked

  • at again with a proposed competition between the Rolls Royce RB211, Pratt & Whitney PW2000

  • and CFM56. It was suggested that whichever engine was

  • chosen, a cost-saving of $11-$15 billion could be achieved and the B-52's range would be

  • increased by 22% and loiter times could be tripled but this also went by the wayside.

  • In 2018 another engine refit program called theCommercial Engine Re-engining Program

  • (CERP)” was proposed and as of April 2020, Pratt & Whitney, GE and Rolls Royce were tasked

  • with producing plans for supplying 608 new digital engines with service and spares support

  • until 2050. The winner to supposed to be announced in May 2021 but in the current political and

  • financial climate, who knows what will happen. Another reason why the B-52 is still here

  • 60 years later is the design of the aircraft itself which has been described as both over-engineered

  • and yet under-engineered at the same time, so what does that mean.

  • Even 60 years later, the condition of the remaining 76 aircraft's overall structure

  • has stood the test of time. In terms of the airframe itself, its over-engineered, all

  • the planes still in service which are the later G and H variants and still use the original

  • airframe. To a similar extent the flight Controls, like the yokes, the seats, the wings and flight

  • control surfaces, linkages and tail assembly are the same as when they rolled out of the

  • factory back 1960-62. Obviously, they are well looked after with

  • regular maintenance and any repairs are done as deemed necessary but there is a lot of

  • the original 1950s designed parts still there, a testament to designers to make something

  • that would last. However, this also a problem when it comes

  • to sourcing parts which haven't been made for 60 years, so visits to the boneyard and

  • previously scrapped B-52's are common occurrence. So what about the under engineering, well,

  • many planes are designed to make use of all the space available and often designed with

  • specific equipment in mind, which sometimes was specially created for that aircraft.

  • In this case, although the B-52 might be cramped and uncomfortable for the crews, it had enough

  • space and flexibility to allow for the equipment updates.

  • The B-52 was designed and built when the world was analogue and computers took up the size

  • room, since then the electronics have shrunk in size the power of computers increased exponentially.

  • Over time upgrades have been proposed, when the General DynamicsGrumman EF-111 Raven

  • electronic warfare aircraft was retired in 1998, 16 of the B-52Hs were to be modified

  • to give them additional electronic jamming capabilities but the program was then cancelled

  • in 2005, then revived in 2007 then cut again in 2009, all down to costs.

  • In 2013 the airforce began a fleet-wide upgrade program called Combat Network Communications

  • Technology (CONECT) of the B-52s communication, computing and avionics, the first major upgrade

  • in this area since they were built. The cost of the CONECT program is $1.1 billion

  • and funding has been secured for 30 aircraft with 10 per year being upgraded.

  • A new Raytheon active electronically scanned array radar is also being proposed similar

  • to that used by aircraft like the F-35, giving an improved range and detecting a greater

  • number of targets, tests of this could start in 2023.

  • The weapons systems are also in for an update to allow it to carry some of the airforces

  • most advanced munitions with tests already being carried out with the hypersonic AGM-183A

  • Air-Launched Rapid Response Weapon and the AGM-86B Long-Range Standoff Missile which

  • could carry conventional or nuclear warheads. The conventional Internal rotary launcher

  • will also be upgraded to carry double the number of weapons and electronic countermeasure

  • systems are looking like they might be upgraded to keep it in line with other aircraft. But

  • because it's considered to be a stand off platform and they wouldn't be entering high

  • threat area's this is not as high a priority as other systems.

  • After all these modifications, the airforce is looking to re-designate the BUFF as the

  • B-52J and this is likely to be the last such designation until they are finally retired.

  • But it's still amazing to think that by then, the B-52 could have in service for 30

  • years longer than it took to go from the first flight of the Wright Brothers in 1903 to last

  • manned mission to the moon in 1972 with Apollo 17.

  • As it looks likely, the B-52 will be probably in service for maybe 100 years, that would

  • be pretty amazing news to the original designers and engineers, let alone in a world where

  • planned obsolescence and an operational life of a few years is the norm and seen as a way

  • to increase sales. But to keep the old tech running and upgrading

  • it with new tech takes a lot of skilled personal, skills that have to be learned and one way

  • you can build up your skills is to use something like Brilliant, the sponsors of this video.

  • Brilliant is a problem-solving website and app so you're not tied to the desktop and

  • you can help develop those learning skills anywhere. Basically, brilliant breaks down

  • complex problems into small easily understandable parts before putting them back together to

  • show the overall conclusion. There are loads of great interactive courses

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  • bending subject of infinity, what it is and how we can understand something that is bigger

  • than the biggest thing we can count to or imagine.

  • This hands-on active learning approach is great for all those curious minds you who

  • want to understand the world. If you want to support Curious Droid and get

  • unlimited access to all of Brilliant's in-depth courses and learning, head over to brilliant.org/curiousdroid/

  • to get 20% off their annual Premium subscription. And to close the video, I would also like

  • to say a big thank you to all our patroens and their ongoing support.

Imagine a Sopwith camel biplane which first saw service in 1917 during the first world

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B-52 还能继续服役多久?(How Long Can the B-52 Continue in Service?)

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    joey joey 發佈於 2021 年 06 月 14 日
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