THE BUFF IN THE 1980s

During the 1980s, with the defense build-up during the Reagan Administration, several new generations of missiles and systems were developed for the BUFF. New air launched cruise missiles (ALCMs) were designed, as were advanced jamming and electronics equipment to counter the growing anti-aircraft and SAM threat of the Soviet Union.

Modernization of the bomber and its arsenal were SAC's key objectives. Among the most deadly systems was the General Dynamics/McDonnell Douglas AGM-129A Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM). This weapon is sometimes called the stealth cruise missile. The ACM features almost no radar cross-section, allowing it to fly undetected all the way to its target. It carries a 200-kiloton yield W80-1 warhead. Its maximum range is classified but estimated to be at over 2,000 miles. Each B-52H can carry up to 12 AGM-129As on underwing pylons. Essentially, with the ACM, a single B-52 can target up to twelve Russian cities or military sites from thousands of miles away, for instance while still flying over the western Pacific Ocean. Cost overruns and budget cuts resulted in the initial procurement of almost 1500 of these weapons to be reduced to just 640.

In addition to new munitions, highly sophisticated low altitude penetration and navigation systems were developed. Night vision goggles, light intensification systems, and radar navigation devices were added to the bomber's kit bag of tricks. These systems allowed pilots to take off in pitch dark, fly low level missions half way across the world in any weather, and reach targets protected by the best the Soviet Union had to offer.

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