The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber designed and built by Boeing and operated by the United States Air Force (USAF).
Beginning with the successful contract bid on 5 June 1946, the B-52 design evolved from a straight-wing aircraft powered by six turboprop engines to the final prototype YB-52 with eight turbojet engines and swept wings. The aircraft first flew on 15 April 1952 with "Tex" Johnston as pilot. Built to carry nuclear weapons for Cold War-era deterrence missions, the B-52 Stratofortress replaced the Convair B-36. Although a veteran of a number of wars, the Stratofortress has dropped only conventional munitions in combat. The B-52 carries up to 70,000 pounds (32,000 kg) of weapons. Its Stratofortress name is rarely used outside of official contexts; it has been referred to by Air Force personnel as the BUFF (Big Ugly Fat Fucker/Fellow).
The B-52H had the same crew and structural changes as the B-52G. The most significant upgrade was the switch to TF33-P-3 turbofan engines which, despite the initial reliability problems (corrected by 1964 under the Hot Fan program), offered considerably better performance and fuel economy than the J57 turbojets. The ECM and avionics were updated, a new fire control system was fitted, and the rear defensive armament was changed from machine guns to a 20 mm M61 Vulcan cannon (later removed in 1991–94). A provision was made for four AGM-48 Skybolt ballistic missiles. The aircraft's first flight occurred on 10 July 1960, and it entered service on 9 May 1961. This is the only variant still operational. A total of 744 B-52s were built. The last production aircraft, B-52H AF Serial No. 61-0040, left the factory on 26 October 1962.