The first B-52H Stratofortress reaches retirement after more than 45 years of dedicated service to the country July 24 here on its final flight to Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. "It is a truly sad time when we decommission a plane," said Lt. Col. Bill Stahl, 5th Maintenance Group deputy commander. "But, the aircraft has served her country well". The B-52H with tail number LA1023 was built in 1961 and assigned to the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB, La., but was here due to parking shortages at Barksdale AFB. It is the first of 18 B-52Hs selected by Air Combat Command to retire. Every two weeks a B-52H will be retired, alternating between here and the 2nd BW in an effort to maximize funding for the aging assets. "It is easier and cheaper to modify and maintain 76 planes, than to keep all 94 up and running," said Master Sgt. Curtis Jensen, 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron production superintendent. While funding was a primary point of the decision process, there were other concerns involved. "A choice was made between the Air Force and Congress stating that at this point we need fewer operational B-52s," Colonel Stahl said. "The decision to pick the selected aircraft was based on a number of criteria that looked at the aircraft as a whole," he said. "It's not like the aircraft are all rusted and corroded; it's just that the selected 18 are not as airworthy as the first 76. The remaining planes are split equally between here and Barksdale AFB". When planes arrive at Tinker AFB, maintenance crews will cover all vents, engines and vulnerable areas. The planes will then be stored in a hangar in case they are needed sometime down the road, Sergeant Jensen said. "Our job now is to make sure we keep the planes left here flying," said Tech. Sgt. Paul Nixon, 5th AMXS electronic warfare element chief.
The B-52 Stratofortress, a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber, is set to receive an upgrade that will significantly increase its weapons payload.
Boeing will develop and produce six of these upgrades by April 2016