The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a legendary bomber that can bring the intimidation factor. One incident during Desert Storm proved this when an Iraqi commander who surrendered gave as his explanation, “the B-52s.” He was reminded that his unit wasn’t hit by those bombers. He said he knew that, but he had seen units that were hit by the BUFFs (Big Ugly Fat F***ers).
Back then, the B-52 could only carry dumb bombs. They were a blunt instrument. Today, the B-52 can carry all sorts of smart bombs, and it is still quite intimidating. Now, there is talk of upping it even more by enabling it to carry four times its current external load. That’s a lot more intimidation just on volume alone.
The current external load the B-52 can carry is about 10,000 pounds. According a report by Janes.com, that figure could go up to 40,000 pounds through the installation of new pylons. The current pylons were installed in the 1960s, and while they have served well, they haven’t kept up with new ordnance. B-52 external pylons have been used to carry a variety of weapons, including Mk 82 and M117 bombs, AGM-142 HAVE NAP missiles, AGM-86 and AGM-129 cruise missiles, and AGM-84 Harpoon anti-ship missiles.
The B-52 has carried a wide variety of weapons in its long career.
Air Force Materials Command has sent out the request for information on a new pylon. There is no word yet on the timeline, but one very tantalizing prospect is that the B-52 would now be able to carry some of the largest weapons in the Air Force’s inventory on those pylons, enhancing its options against hard targets like cave complexes and bunkers.
The GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst currently can only be delivered by MC-130H/J transports, but new pylons could allow the B-52 to carry this powerful weapon.
One weapon likely to be added to the B-52’s repertoire would be the GBU-43 Massive Ordnance Air Burst — fondly referred to as the “Mother Of All Bombs.” This GPS-guided system is currently only usable by MC-130s with Special Operations Command, which has 37 MC-130J Commando II and 18 MC-130H Combat Talon transports in service. The Air Force presently has 58 B-52s in active service and another 18 BUFFs in the Air Force Reserve.
Plans also call for work to be done on the B-52’s wings and to replace their eight TF33 engines with commercial engines that would have much greater fuel efficiency. Combined with these new pylons, the B-52 could end up having a huge part to play for decades to come.