B-52 Stratofortress Gets More Stopping Power as Life Extended Into the 2050s

The B-52 Stratofortress has been around for close to 70 years now. First flown in 1952, the massive strategic bomber saw the most action in the Vietnam and Gulf wars, but other than that, it remained (thankfully) largely unused for the purpose it was created.
B-52 Stratofortress 9 photos
Photo: Boeing
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Over 700 of them were made over the years, but given how most of them come from decades ago, some mechanical overhauls are in order from time to time. For this year, the enhancements for 77 of the B-52s deployed by the U.S. Air Force (USAF) have nothing to do with the airplanes’ aerial prowess.

As said, the aircraft is massive. It tips the scale, empty, at 185,000 pounds (over 83 metric tons), and can get to 265,000 pounds (120 metric tons) when loaded with bombs. That means both take-off and landings exert an enormous amount of stress on the wheels and brakes.

In a bid to extend the life of these terrifying machines capable of raining death from above, USAF chose Collins Aerospace to come up with a new wheel and carbon brake design.

According to the contractor, the technology to be used for the new pieces of hardware is based on something it calls Duracarb carbon heat sink material. It’s the same technology already deployed on a number of Airbus, Embraer, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin aircraft.

Duracarb is supposed to be lighter than existing materials, cool faster, and also have a longer life. The exact specs for the material as it will be used on the B-52 are, of course, not public. We are also not being told when the solution for the B-52 will be ready to hit the runways’ tarmac.

Collins’ involvement with the B-52 expands far beyond the soon-to-be new wheels and brakes. The company already supplies the aircraft’s generators, communication, and navigation systems.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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