An aircraft identified as a B-52H Stratofortress, belonging to the United States Air Force, was detected in proximity to the border shared by Romania and Ukraine. This information was initially disseminated by the Bulgarian media outlet Obektivno.bg, which monitored the aircraft’s trajectory using the flight tracking platform, flightradar24.
The strategic platform, designed for carrying nuclear ordnance, initiated its mission from the Sigonella air base located in Italy. Its flight path encompassed the northwestern expanse of Greek airspace before entering Bulgarian territory. During its transit, the aircraft, bearing the registration number 60-0004, traversed the entirety of Bulgaria’s airspace, moving from the southwestern sector to the northeastern quadrant of the nation.
Upon departing Bulgarian airspace, the B-52H proceeded towards Romania, eventually reaching a point in close proximity to the Romanian-Ukrainian border near the Ukrainian city of Odesa. Notably, during this phase of its mission, the American bomber executed several circular maneuvers. Subsequently, having fulfilled its objectives, aircraft 60-0004 returned to its operational base in Italy.
It is pertinent to highlight that such actions undertaken by the United States Air Force have become relatively commonplace in recent months, particularly following the commencement of the conflict in Ukraine on February 24, 2022. It is worth noting that in March of the current year, two American B-52 bombers conducted a two-hour training sortie, including circular flight patterns, within a specified sector of Bulgarian airspace. It should be mentioned that the two bombers had launched from their Spanish air base in Seville. During the course of their training sorties over Bulgaria, one of the aircraft deviated from its initial path and ventured into Romanian airspace.
Although the involvement of US Air Force bombers in the actual hostilities in Ukraine is not direct, it is characterized as indirect participation. These flights serve multifaceted purposes, such as strategic reconnaissance missions. Equipped with advanced sensor technology and cameras, B-52H bombers possess the capability to gather valuable intelligence through surveillance activities. These missions involve flying over areas of interest, enabling the collection of imagery and data pertaining to enemy positions, movements, and critical infrastructure.
B-52H bombers possess an additional capability in the realm of electronic warfare. These aircraft can be outfitted with electronic countermeasures, including jamming devices, designed to disrupt enemy communications and radar systems.
Through the implementation of jamming tactics, B-52H bombers have the capacity to undermine the enemy’s ability to coordinate their forces and detect incoming threats.
About the B-52 Bomber
The B-52H Stratofortress stands as an emblematic symbol of American military prowess, serving as a nuclear-powered strategic bomber. This remarkable aircraft, which took its maiden flight in April 1952, has endured for over seven decades. It was unveiled to the world after completing three orbits around the sun and has since played a vital role within the esteemed branches of the United States Air Force. The exclusive operational authority over this bomber type is held by the United States, with NASA also possessing a significant inventory for non-military purposes.
A total of 744 B-52 bombers, spanning various versions, were manufactured before production ceased in 1962. The B-52H variant, currently active in the skies over Bulgaria, represents the final iteration in the series, a culmination of Boeing’s renowned craftsmanship. With this development, the era of B-52 bomber production concludes gracefully.
B-52 Engine and Avionics
The driving force behind the B-52H is the TF33-P-3 turbofan engine, which distinguishes itself from its predecessor with enhanced cost-effectiveness and superior performance characteristics. Although the engine faced initial reliability challenges, these issues were effectively addressed and resolved by 1964.
Equipped with cutting-edge avionics, the B-52H surpasses its predecessors in terms of technological advancement. This variant takes a significant leap forward by incorporating a completely revamped fire control system, further enhancing its comprehensive suite of technological advancements.
B-52 Armament and Specifications
Situated in the tail section of this formidable aerial platform, traditionally designated for defensive weaponry, the initial armament comprised machine guns. However, in the ‘H’ model, this conventional armament was replaced with a more potent alternative, the 20mm M61 Vulcan cannon. Notably, as the mid-1990s approached, this cannon system was phased out.
The bomber operates with a crew of five individuals, each fulfilling a distinct role, including a pilot, co-pilot, weapon systems officer, navigator, and electronic warfare officer. Impressively, the aircraft achieves takeoff at a maximum weight of 488,000 pounds (221,323 kilograms) and boasts a wingspan spanning 185 feet (56.4 meters). Propulsion is provided by eight Pratt & Whitney TF33-P-3/103 turbofan engines, each delivering a robust 17,000 pounds of thrust (76 kilonewtons).
Under full throttle, the bomber can attain a maximum speed of 650 miles per hour (1,050 kilometers per hour, 560 knots), while its cruising speed settles at approximately 509 miles per hour (819 kilometers per hour, 442 knots). With a combat radius extending an impressive 8,800 miles (14,200 kilometers, 7,600 nautical miles), it constitutes a formidable asset within the airborne inventory. The B-52 has the capability to carry a diverse array of ordnance, totaling approximately 70,000 pounds (32,000 kilograms), encompassing various configurations of bombs, mines, and missiles.