Best American Bomber of the last 50 years

Discussion in 'General Military Arms & History Forum' started by Pat Hurley, Mar 23, 2007.

?

What American bomber aircraft of the last 50 years is/was the most broadly capable?

  1. B-52 Stratofortress

    21 vote(s)
    77.8%
  2. B-58 Hustler

    1 vote(s)
    3.7%
  3. B-1B Lancer

    5 vote(s)
    18.5%
  4. B-2 Spirit

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Pat Hurley

    Pat Hurley Former Guest

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2006
    Messages:
    987
    Location:
    Naples, Florida
    For the purposes of this poll, let your answer be based upon aircraft ABILITY, and not necessarily on length of service or tonnage of ordinance actually dropped. This should make it a little tougher on you B-52 reactionaries!

    My pick is actually a tie between the B-58 Hustler and the B-1B Lancer. But I give the nod to the B-1B. It is supersonic, stealthy, has a huge bomb capacity (yes, larger than that of the beloved B-52), and has ground hugging capability that makes it unusually lethal on a variety of bombing missions.
  2. Marlin

    Marlin *TFF Admin Staff Chief Counselor*

    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2003
    Messages:
    13,854
    Location:
    At SouthernMoss' side forever!
    I think that the B-58 should have the edge, but that's only my opinion..... :)
  3. Pat, I'm not certain that a valid comparison can be logically made using the criterion you set and limitations you impose. Obviously, the B-2 Stealth is the most broadly capable simply because of its technological advantages. The venerable B-52, for example, is a 50 year old design and air frame. Like the B-52, the B-2 is both conventional and nuclear capable, but unlike the other choices, nearly invisible to radar detection. On the other hand, it is also true that no bomber listed has the conventional ordinance lift capablity of the B-52, which is why it is still in inventory. It's our only truly "heavy" bomber. To some extent, you seem to be comparing apples to oranges in place of apples to apples.
  4. In a purely nuclear attack role, I would agree, Marlin. It was fast as a thief on steroids. As a conventional bomber, however, the Hustler was virtually useless in its day and time. Were it still operational, it would likely be armed with cruise missiles in place of the nuclear weapons pod it carried while in service.
  5. Pat Hurley

    Pat Hurley Former Guest

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2006
    Messages:
    987
    Location:
    Naples, Florida

    I agree that this is not a neat and clean poll, but I don't think it's convoluted either. If you judge each in its own era first, then compare them to each other, then the process becomes a tad easier.

    Look, there were about six true American bombers flying in this period (not to mention the almost-made-it XB-70 Valkyrie) so there are not many same era bombers to compare. Their differences are significant. They were each designed to do several different things well. But the question is which - judged first in its own era, then to each other - could do the MOST things well.

    My vote was for the B-1B because of its ordinance load (and yes, it can hold more conventional bombs than the B-52), stealthiness, speed (she's supersonic), ground following capability, and retractible wings for slow speed handling.

    I'll try to create a better poll next time. Sorry.
  6. SKYDIVER386

    SKYDIVER386 New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2006
    Messages:
    62
    Although it would be hard to argue against the B-52, the B-1 is probably a better all around bomber. The B-52 was fantastic in the days of area bombing, but nearly every modern bomb is now precision guided. We no longer need the heavy tonnages of bombs being dropped by the thousands in order to take out a target, we simply drop 1 single 2,000lb JDAM and get the job done. So my vote is for the B-1, with the beloved B-52 in second place.
  7. No negative criticism was intended, Pat. It just didn't seem clear to me at first what basis of comparison you intended to apply. :D I agree, it is very difficult to compare weapons systems from different eras due to changing technology and the changing threats each system is designed to attack and countermeasures each is designed to defeat. OK, given what you just said, I can see why you might pick the B-1B. If we exclude the potential nuclear attack role (which in my mind entirely excludes the B-58 because that is the only thing it was truly designed to do), the B-1B must take the honors. I would go even further and argue that the B-1B should have been built in sufficient quantity to replace the venerable but aging B-52. The Lancer can do it all, from conventional carpet bombing to penetration of sophisticated anti-air systems and nuclear strike.
  8. berto64

    berto64 Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2001
    Messages:
    7,491
    Location:
    Owyhee County, Idaho
    With all the upgrades on the Buff it's capabilities have been greatly enhanced. It's ordinance load is much more varied than anyone in the fifties or sixties could have believed.

    It now may carry and launch cruise missiles from wing pods, plus all the new "smart" ordinance out there today.
  9. Quite true, Berto, which is the main reason the old BUFF is still flying after more than a half-century of service. I've read though that spare parts are getting harder and harder to acquire, even though they salvage many from the "boneyard" at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. The air frames are also older than most of the officers who fly them. When this great (and beautiful in my opinion) aircraft finally reaches the end of its useful life, what will we do for a heavy bomber? We don't have enough of the B-1Bs to perform the same function.
  10. Mosin_Nagant_Fan

    Mosin_Nagant_Fan New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2007
    Messages:
    1,838
    Location:
    Montgomery, AL
    B-52 Stratofortress because it can fly higher then any other aircraft, less the SR-71 and space-crafts, and has the payload an aircraft carrier would be jealous about.
  11. Pat Hurley

    Pat Hurley Former Guest

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2006
    Messages:
    987
    Location:
    Naples, Florida



    Sorry to bust your bubble, but the B-1B Lancer can hold more ordinance, fly it farther, and fly it much faster than the vaunted B-52. AND the B-1 has terrain hugging capability that the B-52 doesn't. It also has viable geometry wings which give it far better slow speed performance.

    The B-52 is still extremly capable and lethal, but the B-1B outperforms it in every meaningful category.
  12. Every meaningful category but one, Pat. Sadly, we didn't build enough of the B-1Bs!
  13. Pat Hurley

    Pat Hurley Former Guest

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2006
    Messages:
    987
    Location:
    Naples, Florida

    Very true. We built 100, but now we're down to about 75 (crashes and spare parts). When I was last at the boneyard (Davis Monthan AFB) I got to visit about six B-1B's that were being stored, but were intended to be brought back into full service very quickly. There were others that were for spare parts only.

    The best question is what will replace the B-1B and how soon? A high speed (B-70 Valkyrie), high capacity (B-1B & B-52), stealthy (B-2), or some combination of all three? Or, is the curtain dropping on era of the heavy bomber (ie. the battleship)?

    Can you imagine a super stealthy heavy bomber, with variable geometry wings, terrain hugging capability, ultra high altitude capability, and able to carry a B-1B bomb load but at Mach 3?! The possibilities are fascinating!

    Lastly, I don't know what the intended service life is for the B-1B, but I've got to think that we've got no more than 20 years to bring something else on line.
  14. bunnyhunter12

    bunnyhunter12 New Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,090
    Location:
    Newfoundland, Canada
    I vote for the B-52 because of a couple of factors. As a direct descendant of the "Big Stick" bombers it has huge weapons bays and the H model can choose from up to 12 cruise missiles, 8 SRAM short-range nuclear attack missiles and/or free fall bombs. That coupled with a 10,000+ mile range without aerial refueling (which she is capable of) and a 55,000 ft. ceiling makes her capable of pretty well any job you could ask. However, she does need help from the other, more stealthy bombers like the F-117 to supress AA defenses. I read an article about the B-52 a while back where they gave a pretty good analogy. They said that the airforce started out by completely redesigning the avionics package and upgrading the engines. Then came massive airframe upgrades, the analogy was, "If my Grandfather gives my father an axe, and after years of use the handle breaks and is replaced, then the axe passes to me and I replace the old, worn out head, is this still my grandfather's axe?" The B-52 of today looks a lot like the ones from 1955 but they are vastly more capable.
  15. Pat Hurley

    Pat Hurley Former Guest

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2006
    Messages:
    987
    Location:
    Naples, Florida

    Dear Smitty:

    I apologize, but i must correct your slavish devotion to the old B-52 rust bucket. Your stats were - how do you say? - tres extravegante!

    According to Jane's Aircraft Recognition Guide, here are the B-52's real stats...

    - Max Speed: 516kts :rolleyes:
    - Max Weapon load: 60,000 lbs. :eek:
    - Range: 8685 nm :)
    -Terrain following avionics: None:rolleyes:
    -Popular when Milton Berle was hosting Texaco Theater? Yes :eek:

    Now, let's look at Rockwell's B-1B Lancer...

    -Max Speed: Mach 1.25 :D
    -Max Weapon Load: 75,000 lbs. (internal) and 59,000 lbs. (external) :D
    -Range: 6,475 nm :)
    -Terrain following avionics: Fully capable:D
    -Popular when the Gipper was ruling the Executive Branch? Yes!:D

    You see, when a real comparison is made, the B-1B Lancer makes the B-52 seem like a bucket-o-bolts. ;)
  16. Millwright

    Millwright Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2005
    Messages:
    1,756
    Pat, IMHO about the only "problem" with your poll is its time frame is a bit too broad. Too much technology grew up in fifty years and its all interdependent.

    I can make a pretty good case for the B-29, as outgrowths of its technology and its wing were still in use into seventies, at least. It saw service as a bomber, a tanker, a passenger liner and freighter - in which use it was modified to carry Saturn rocket parts.

    The BUFF made several transitions; from high-level high speed nuke penetrator to low level nuke penetrator, to "super bomber" loaded wall to wall, to standoff carrier.

    The XB-70 took ultra high altitude high speed penetration to a new level, but changing SA and AA missile technology overtook its capabilities.

    The B-1 is one hell of a fine airplane. Sneaky, gobs of speed, and a heavy weight hauler to boot. But so far the airframe hasn't acquired a lot of combat time so questions as to its survivability/durability exist in my mind.

    The B-2 is a nifty aircraft, but one designed for a particular role against a particular threat scenario. It lacks the speed of the Lancer, and the Hustler, and the throw weight of the Buff and the Lancer.

    IMO the B-58 Hustler was a disaster. Sure, it had speed, but the loss of one engine at speed invariably resulted in loss of the aircraft.

    On the "what if" side, consider the SR-71. It originated as an interceptor - the YF - concept and a few were built. When P-R became the urgent mission the "Blackbird" was launched from the Skunk Works. But some studies were conducted to evaluate its capabilities as a bomber since the recon packs and bombs of the time were about on a par for weight and size. I've long suspected the problem wasn't getting the bomb on board, but getting it off without destroying the plane, plus the lack of sufficiently accuracte terminal guidance at the time.

    Still, a nifty poll, and a lot of fun ! Think of some more !!!
  17. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2001
    Messages:
    8,078
    Location:
    Indiana
    Sorry, Pat, but the "Best Bomber of the past 50 years" is a no brainer....pick the one that has BEEN there and DONE that for those 50 years....


    If you look at the COST vs. WHAT IT HAS DONE, not what it CAN do, then it also is hands down....

    Millwright said it best: The B-1 is one hell of a fine airplane. Sneaky, gobs of speed, and a heavy weight hauler to boot. But so far the airframe hasn't acquired a lot of combat time so questions as to its survivability/durability exist in my mind.


    They finally got it right, but when it took SO long, can you REALLY rate it the "best?"


    And then there is the TIME the B1 took to GET operational...there is a similar REASON we are down to 75 too. And while you are RIGHTLY justified in tooting the nap of the earth capabilities of the B1, it was NOT designed to do that....so technically, it was a FAILURE for what it was designed to do...which is high altitude penetration....and in fact it really IS an "old" design too.....literally from the 1970s, and guess when was it's FIRST operational mission.

    And at NO time was the B-52 ever in danger of being "cancelled," and only kept alive by a hair politically.

    The B1B if you REALLY think about it, is arguably a waste of money...with all potential air defenses we will probably face in the near future, the 52 can do ALMOST everything the B1 can do, and all that money can go towards acquiring a few more of the REALLY expensive but more state of the art B-2s....



    But as an aside, your question about the future of heavy bombers is a good one too, at least MANNED ones....

    All you have to do is compare the development and differences between the "heavy bombers" of the PRECEDING 50 years and compare it to the LAST 50 to see that there really HASN'T been that much "progress" since the 1950s, which is another reason the BUFF stayed viable for so long...

    We might be at the same dead end with manned aircraft that we are with cartridge firearms....nothing REALLY new under the sun for at least 50, MAYBE 100, years, just "refinements," all the while waiting for the NEXT quantum leap.
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2007
  18. bunnyhunter12

    bunnyhunter12 New Member

    Joined:
    May 8, 2007
    Messages:
    1,090
    Location:
    Newfoundland, Canada
    Pat, I took my stats from the "Encyclopedia of Modern Military Aircarft", Michael Taylor, Bison Books. I would tend to trust Jane's more, however, the only statistic we seem to disagree on (numerically anyway: my 10,000+ vs. your 8685) is the range. I quoted miles, you quoted nautical miles, so conversion may straighten things out :) .
  19. Pat Hurley

    Pat Hurley Former Guest

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2006
    Messages:
    987
    Location:
    Naples, Florida
    Dear Polish:

    I have come to admire and respect your depth of knowledge where guns and history are concerned. However, you've really stepped in it this time.

    It cannot be reasonably held against the B-1B that it was born at a time when liberals were successfully shooting down quality weapons systems. The B-1 was merely a pawn in the game of politics which the Gipper finally won. Also, how can you hold the B-1B responsible for the world changing while it was operational? The Soviet Union was alive and well when it was on the drawing board. By the time it was operational, the Soviets days were numbered. Once it finally collapsed, the mission of the B-1B had to necessarily change. The B-52 faced no such wild swings in international realities that the B-1B did.

    The B-1B is an "old" design?! Can we then agree that the B-52 is an "ancient" design?

    Is the comparison fair that the B-1B hasn't seen the action that the B-52 has, thus it should be penalized? History has a way of testing some weapons systems more than others. This only proves that the timing of the B-52 was fortuitous based upon the battles that would lay ahead. The B-1B will have it's day... sadly.

    At 250 million a piece, it was/is a huge bargain.

    When taken as a whole (payload, speed, defensive capability, terrain hugging capability, range, and stealthiness) there is no more versatile, completely capable, and lethal bomber in the world.

    Vive Le Lancer!
  20. polishshooter

    polishshooter Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 25, 2001
    Messages:
    8,078
    Location:
    Indiana
    Ah, Pat, I needed to argue with you, your passion was showing, and besides, would you EXPECT me to pick the "newer" ANYTHING? ;) And yes, the BUFF is "ancient," just like the 1911A1....but that does NOT mean "ineffective," quite the contrary....

    But you ALSO have to admit the role and mission of the BUFF actually changed MORE from it's drawing board stage...showing it's versatility.

    I will grant you that just about anything the 52 can do the B1 can do better....BUT I think it can be argued is it that MUCH better, and is that much better actually DECISIVE, for the COST?


    I can't help thinking if it WAS, then the B1 would have REPLACED the B52, which is what it was intended to do....and we all know that didn't happen....so you HAVE to answer that one, honestly....WHY?????:confused: :rolleyes: ;)


    And Pat, just about any question including the words "What" and "Best" (or WORST) many times does NOT have a "correct" answer, only good and bad ARGUMENTS;) :p :D


    This from a guy who argued (Pretty WELL at least I think;) ) that the Brewster Buffalo was a damm good fighter....:D
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2007
Similar Threads
Forum Title Date
General Military Arms & History Forum Best Post WWII American fighter aircraft Aug 26, 2006
General Military Arms & History Forum Looking for best M1 Garand sling Oct 18, 2012
General Military Arms & History Forum WWII and historys best sniper. Jul 15, 2012
General Military Arms & History Forum Best counter-terrorist unit? Oct 28, 2011
General Military Arms & History Forum Best AK47 Apr 29, 2010