Here’s why the Air Force’s B-52 has only gotten better with age

If the B-52 was a person it’d be old enough to retire and collect social security, but instead we’re using it to bomb America’s haters in the Middle East.

As the cliché saying goes — it’s like a fine wine, it only gets better with age. And in the case of the B-52, it’s true. Boeing’s B-52 Stratofortress was made in 1952 and was supposed to be in service for only a decade. But constant updates have made it a relevant weapon 60 years later.

Its low operating costs have kept it in service despite the advent of more advanced bombers, such as the canceled B-70 Valkyrie, B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit.

With a payload of 70,000 pounds and a wide array of weapons, including bombs, mines and missiles, the B-52 has been the backbone of the manned strategic bomber force for the U.S. for the past 40 years, according to the U.S. Air Force. The B-52 is expected to serve beyond the year 2040.

Here’s the B-52 Stratofortress throughout the years:

The first B-52H Stratofortress delivered to Minot Air Force Base

B-52H Minot USAF base

Base leadership and former North Dakota governor, William Guy, kneel in front of the “Peace Persuader” on Minot Air Force Base in July of 1961. This was the first B-52H Stratofortress delivered to the base.

B-52D dropping 500-lb bombs

b-52D_dropping 500 lb bombs

A B-52D Stratofortress from the 93rd Bombardment Wing at Castle Air Force Base, California, drops bombs. B-52Ds were modified in 1966 to carry 108, 500-lb bombs while the normal conventional payload before was only 51. (Image: Wikimedia)

A B-52H Stratofortress of the 2d Bomb Wing takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam

b-52 anderson usaf base

A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, to participate in an exercise scenario Aug. 22. The aircraft, aircrew and maintainers are deployed from Barksdale AFB, La., as part of the continuous bomber presence in the Pacific region. During their deployment to Guam, the bomber squadron’s participation in exercises will emphasize the U.S. bomber presence, demonstrating U.S. commitment to the Pacific region. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Master Sgt. Mahmoud Rasouliyan)

The aircrew inside the B-52 cockpit

b-52 cockpit

Aircrew assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron participate in a RED FLAG-Alaska 10-2 sortie on a B-52H Stratofortress, April 29, 2010, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The aircrew is assigned to Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

A view of the lower deck of the B-52, dubbed the battle station

b-52 battlestation

Capt. Jeff Rogers (left) and 1st Lt. Patrick Applegate are ready in the lower deck of a B-52 Stratofortress at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., on Aug. 21, 2006. The officers are with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

At the navigation station

cramped b-52 battle station

Capt. Michael Minameyer reviews map during a RED FLAG-Alaska 10-2 sortie on a B-52H Stratofortress, April 29, 2010, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. RF-A provides participants 67,000 square miles of airspace, more than 30 threat simulators, one conventional bombing range and two tactical bombing ranges containing more than 400 different types of targets. Captain Minameyer is a navigator assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Christopher Boitz)

Mid-air refueling

b-52 mid air refuel

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — A member of the 916th Air Refueling Wing off-loads fuel to a B-52 over the Pacific near Guam.

Refueling over Guam

Refueling over Guam

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. — Airmen of the 916th begin to return to home in early November after a deployment to Guam supporting the bomber mission. Here, a KC-135 tanker refuels a B-52.

Pulling chocks

B-52 Stratofortress ages like wine

A B-52 Stratofortress takes off from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 21. The bomber is with the 5th Bomb Wing. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Lance Cheung)

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