Sunday, April 15, 2012

The B-52 Turns 60: What IF?

As the “BUFF” enters a long planned twilight, how might things played out if the era had been different?

B-52D on Display at Dyess AFB (SMSgt Mac Photo)
The B-52 is a beautiful over-engineered-by-slide-rule beast first flown on April 15, 1952 that has now flown for 60 years. The newest airframe is now over 50 years old. The 50+ operational life of the B-52 began with it being a high altitude penetrating bomber, painfully transitioning to a low altitude penetrating bomber, and then finally to its current primary role as a standoff weapons launch platform.

The Value of History: Perspective

Novices in mathematics, science, or engineering are forever demanding infallible, universal, mechanical methods for solving problems. -J. R. Pierce

It has been written that “What If?” is historian’s “favorite secret question”. Would the B-52 have become the venerable icon of airpower that it is ‘then’, if American communications and norms had been different?

What if’ 1946-1952 was anything like 2006-2012?
(All persons and institutions are fictional, Any resemblance of characters cited within to persons living or dead is pure serendipity ).


Boeing Model 462, Source: Mandeles
The tremendous growth of the Air Corps during World War II created a plethora of offices with overlapping concerns-the organizational conditions for the establishment of a multiorganizational system that ultimately influenced the postwar formulation of operational requirements for jet-propelled strategic bombers. Peacetime, however, brought large cuts in personnel, budget, and orders to aircraft manufacturers and-against the background of great uncertainty and strife in the defense establishment-many doubts surfaced during the first 13 months of the new heavy bomber program. The first bomber configuration, Model 462, was accepted in mid-1946. Within three months, this version was subjected to much criticism by the Air Staff. Boeing proposed an entirely different configuration, Model 464, to answer Air Staff doubts. Over the course of several years, the profusion of offices having overlapping functions regarding the development of new aircraft promoted a useful pattern of proposal, criticism, and change. (Mandeles, Pg 48**)

**Page numbers: electronic version online
Boeing Model 464-17, Source: Mandeles
‘Wheels’ Wincelow, "Pentagon Waste Proliferates in Bureaucratic Redundancy", Centre of Defense Disinformation (CDI) 1946 Press Release:
The War Department’s latest folly involves not one, not two, but THREE new and unnecessary bomber programs. By far the worst of the three has to be the new and as yet undefined ‘Heavy Bomber’ program. Already it is reported that the first design attempt has failed and the contractor has happily gone back to the drawing board no doubt with more of the public’s money in its pockets. The conflicted decision and review process of this program is being carried out through a bloated, redundant, and ponderous bureaucracy that will no doubt generate tremendous waste of the taxpayer’s dollars in an effort doomed to fail under the weight of its own inertia.
Peacenik Objectors Gone Overboard (POGO) Testimony before the House Whines and Memes Committee:
In this time of hard-won peace and enduring economic uncertainty, the United States enjoys primacy as the world’s exclusive nuclear power, the United States should not be pursuing another long range bomber aircraft and should scrap development of the overly complex and expensive medium and heavy bombers now in development. We strongly recommend substituting more B-29s and the new B-50s for half of planned buys of the recently announced B-47 and ongoing B-36 development programs and cancelling the rest, and to cease the wasteful development of these unnecessary and unproven weapons technology. With a planned total buy in excess of 2000 aircraft, these bomber programs are among the Department of War’s largest weapon procurement efforts and will (for a decade or more) drain the Treasury of funds needed to strengthen peaceful international relations and pay for domestic programs . This option would buy half as many simpler, cheaper aircraft, purchasing instead more of the current generation of bombers at a fraction of the cost to develop, field and support the new gold-plated aircraft with all their extraneous bells and whistles. The rationale for this change would be that DOD does not need even more new bombers as the new B-50, an advanced development of the B-29 that has yet to fly. This option might also allow the War Department to upgrade their bomber fleets faster than possible with the newer unproven aircraft designs which will undoubtedly experience delays related to additional technical problems driven by their unnecessary complexity.
Phil Sweetham (Aviation Leaks):
"This new bomber program is in trouble already and it hasn’t even been active two years. Will it EVER be fielded?"  
 Dave Axiom Headline ('Stranger Room' Column, 'Mired' Magazine):
‘Controversial’ New Bomber Controversially Struggles Early in Controversy,
 Title of General Accountants Office Report:
"New Bomber’s Unstable Design and Concurrency Creates Excessive Risk"


Yet, Air Materiel Command constituted a useful “redundancy of calculation” for the assistant chiefs, and functioned as an element of a nascent multiorganizational system. AMC staff often criticized the bas[i]s and assumptions of headquarters’ B-52 decisions. A June 1947 memorandum from the Aircraft Laboratory argued that AC / AS staff (1) misunderstood the relation between military requirements and aircraft size, (2) misunderstood how difficult it would be to design an aircraft capable of 5,000-mile radius, (3) did not appreciate how well balanced the B-52 design was, and (4) misunderstood how technical setbacks should be expected but could be solved in later versions of the aircraft. In July AMC’s Maj Gen Laurence C. Craigie, arguing on the basis of technical studies conducted in the Engineering Division, suggested that AC / AS officers should refrain from proposing either the all-wing or delta wing as alternatives to the B-52. He emphasized, in response to misgivings about B-52 range, that design deficiencies could be rectified in the aircraft’s life cycle. (Mandeles, Pg 47**)

‘Wheels’ Wincelow: Pursuit of Unobtainable ‘Perfect’ Bomber Solution Highlights Complexity Problems, Centre of Defense Disinformation (CDI) 1947 Press Release:
"Well here it is a year later and one design attempt after another has fallen barren. The bloated bureaucracy inherited by the new Air Force continues to generate tremendous waste of the taxpayer’s dollars through incompetence and inefficiency chasing unnecessarily complex weapon systems. It is still a program destined for certain failure."
Dave Axiom of Stranger Room (while trying to look really, really, serious) :
New Controversial Bomber Still Controversially Struggles in Ongoing Controversy: “They’re claiming their new designs meet specifications but are having to cheat by changing the specifications. Those cheating cheaters!” 
 Peacenik Objectors Gone Overboard (POGO) 1947 Press Release:
Pentagon suppressing dissent in ranks over New Bomber Designs:  "Scandal grows as faults and failures in design process and poor management are being covered up by the new Air Force’s leadership". POGO calls for Congressional investigations
 From Gonzo Accounting Office (GAO) 1947 Report: “New Bomber’s Unstable Design, Division of Effort and Concurrency Creates Excessive Risk”:
To summarize, the Army Air Force’s focus, needed to ensure that this program will succeed appears to be hampered by priorities given to the current Department of War reorganization plans. It is doubtful that the many parallel bomber programs now in varying stages of development will allow sufficient attention will be given to this new bomber program. The GAO recommends termination of this program and the newly-organized Department of Defense should seriously reconsider current plans and delay fielding the current programs of record until the threat driving the need for the B-36 emerges and until the technology for the B-47 is considerably more mature.
 Phil Sweetham (Aviation Leaks):
The newly created Air Force has been no more able to nail down exactly what this fancy new bomber of theirs is expected to do (or what it will even look like) than their Army Air Force progenitors. Whatever plans these new ‘princes’ of the sky have for their new toy must solidify before they can proceed, and there is no indication of any set plan materializing as of this writing. One must also wonder about how much additional cost is buried in the Air Force’s plans to fix inherent “design deficiencies” that will “be rectified in the aircraft’s life cycle”. The probability of this program coming to fruition is becoming even more unlikely and surely increased Congressional scrutiny must be imminent.
 Part 2 (1948-1949)


Solomon said...

absolutely brilliant!

love it!

SMSgt Mac said...

Thanks, but it is a Blogger formatting nightmare ;-)

SpudmanWP said...

Thanks for helping me lose weight on my new diet... because I laughed my ass off :)

SMSgt Mac said...

Geez, now I'm worried about my follow-through.

noiln said...

Mathematics is also a branch of science. It’s used to calculate the values with different methods. In the past people calculate the values with different things. In past calculation method is too much difficult but due to the progress of sciences now days we can calculate too much large vales with in a second

Patrick said...

I hate internet slang, but LMAO!