With North Korea's bellicose rhetoric escalating by the day -- on Wednesday a spokesman said its military has been cleared to wage a nuclear attack -- the annual U.S. training exercise Foal Eagle continues just over the border.
Foal Eagle, which began March 1 and will run through April 30 in conjunction with South Korea, includes a nuclear attack submarine, F-22s and B-2 Stealth bombers, and the nuclear-capable B-52s Stratofortress, a veteran aircraft that can drop the largest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory.
The behemoth is the biggest bomber that the Air Force flies. It's so big that it takes 32 airmen more than 12 hours to wash one. The B-52 can do just about anything from nuclear weapon deployment to close air support.
And this American classic has been making headlines a lot lately.
Beyond the annual Foal Eagle training exercise, Americans across the nation were outraged when "The Amazing Race" used the wreckage of a B-52 shot down in Vietnam as a prop recently, asking contestants to sing communist songs. CBS later apologized for the insensitive show.
It's served the military well for more than half a century.Inside an American classic
Capable of flying at altitudes of 50,000 feet, the aircraft has a 185-foot wingspan and is nearly 160 feet long. The long-range B-52 heavy bomber flies at subsonic speeds and provides a global strike capability.
Just how fast is that? Built by Boeing, this aircraft can fly at Mach 0.86–that’s 650 miles per hour.
Precision guided missiles, gravity and cluster bombs are just a few of the payloads the B-52 can deliver against targets – a single B-52 can launch a whopping 70,000 pounds of mixed ordnance.
The latest version, the B-52H, can carry up to 20 air-launched cruise missiles, or nuclear weapons for precision delivery anywhere in the world.
The aircraft plays other critical roles beyond attack such as providing critical surveillance and monitoring capabilities.
According to the Air Force, just two B-52s can monitor 140,000 square miles in a mere two hours - that’s like scanning an area larger than the size of Great Britain and Newfoundland combined.
The aircraft can be kitted out with electro-optical viewing sensor systems and forward-looking infrared.
Remarkably, the B-52 has unlimited combat range. The bomber can be refueled while in flight. A KC-135 Stratotanker, for example, can deploy to keep a mission going. Without refueling, it has a range of around 8,800 miles.
In 1989, modernizing updates began, incorporating GPS and adaptations to carry 2,000-pound munitions, according to the Air Force. Developing a full array of advance weapons is also underway.
New avionics, electronic defense and offensive systems, and more powerful engines updates will continue to enhance the aircraft’s utility.
Only the H model is still in the Air Force inventory with aircraft assigned to the Air Force Global Strike Command at the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB in North Dakota and the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana.
B-52Hs are also assigned to Air Force Reserve Command's 307th Bomb Wing at Barksdale.
source - http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2013/04/04/with-north-korea-warning-nuclear-war-b-52s-soar-in-foal-eagle/