EARLY DEVELOPMENT

The early development of the plane was troubled. From the first round, Boeing's design did not meet the ambitious range, speed, altitude and payload targets set by the Air Force. Nonetheless, the program was ordered ahead. In the next two years, it would come close to being axed three more times. The accepted design would emerge only after several last ditch saves by senior Air Force generals and an over the weekend redesign by the engineering team, accomplished while on the road in a hotel room.

Ellsworth AFB receives its first B-52As in June 1957.

What would evolve from that design would be the most ambitious and unique bomber in American history. It was to have eight jet engines hanging under its wings. It's bomb bay was designed to carry the massive thermonuclear weapons then in development. Huge fuel tanks in the wings and fuselage would give the plane an unrefueled range that allowed it to strike deep into the Soviet Union. With air-to-air refueling, the plane could circumnavigate the globe.

In 1955, just ten years after the end of the war, the first Boeing B-52 was delivered to the 93rd Bomb Wing at Castle AFB. Officially dubbed the "Stratofortress," the B-52 was informally named by its crews the "BUFF," or Big Ugly Fat Fellow.

The B-52 achieved its primary goal of flying day and night for the most intense three decades of the thirty years of the Cold War. It was a credible, significant deterrent against the Soviet Union. It was, in and of itself, the third leg of the so-called "Triad" -- a triple nuclear threat composed of land-based ICBMs, submarine-launched missiles, and aircraft.

Countless crews rested in the shade of its wings, awaiting launch orders, while others flew long racetrack patterns over the central United States. They had a single mission: if the Soviet Union was dumb enough to start a nuclear war, the B-52s would be there to end it, perhaps for all mankind.

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