2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)

Monday, April 23, 2012

Heavy Metal Monday #2 - B-52 and The Cult

Well, here's #2 of this "new" series....

The B-52 Stratofortress and The Cult.  There is a combination that you might not put together normally.

The B-52

The B-52 traces its origins back to the start of the Cold War between the US and former Soviet Union.  A nuclear standoff over much of the world was waged starting in the late 40's until the fall of the Soviet regime in the 90's.  It was designed in the birth of the jet age when people still thought with turboprop minds...indeed the first engines ever to grace a prototype were prop engines themselves, the jet replacements coming after somebody drank a cup of reality and realized the future laid in jet propulsion.  Designed after WW2 where convention wisdom was to fly as high above the enemy as possible to stay out of anti-aircraft fire and away from interceptor aircraft (again we always seem to plan to fight the last war we have been in) the specification for the B-52 had a ceiling (maximum flying altitude) of 34,000 feet and a speed of 300 knots.  Doesn't sound like much now but it was cutting edge performance in its day.  I don't know if you have flown lately, but I remember going over to Europe when deploying and seeing the display in the cabin of our aircraft showing we were flying at something like 37,000 feet at 600 knots.  Moreover, the cruising range was around 5,000 miles...which is a far piece in and of itself.  The eventual specs after the jets were added and other factors gave a plane that flew at more than 500 knots, cruised above 35,000 feet and had a range of around 7,000 miles.  Pretty good even today.

Despite this performance, the concept that the bomber would be able to cruise high enough and fast enough to be safe from ground based anti-aircraft systems lasted about as operationally as long as it took you to read this sentence.  Actually, more like 3 to 5 years, which in terms of a weapons system like the B-52 is time enough for one or two minor improvements, especially at the height of the Cold War.  The Soviet SA-2 AA missile quickly make the operating altitude of the B-52 a nice altitude to allow the crew to get a good view of the vapor trail coming up to intercept them.   While US spies and intelligence sources had a good idea of what it was capable of, when one of these missiles shot down a U2 spy plane on May 1st, 1960 it verified the fact that the gig was up for high altitude safety.

The B-52 was as much a star of the movie Dr. Strangelove as any other actor.  This is one of my favorite parts of the movie....RIP Slim Pickens...

Despite this "shortcoming", the B-52 still stayed as the main offensive bomber in the US nuclear triad for many years and was employed in its conventional role extensively in Vietnam where, despite losses to the SA-2 at the hands of Vietnamese troops armed and trained by the Soviets, where its massive payloads of conventional munitions was able to bring the North Vietnamese to the negotiation table after operations such as Linebacker I and II.  The effects of a bombing mission were devastating to behold with troops in Vietnam earning it the nickname "Arc Light" for the sudden flashes of lights that would appear from the explosions without warning as the bombs were dropped from such a high height that no advanced warning of the impending devastation would be known.

Even today the B-52 still remains in service and has provided invaluable yet again in the wars in the Gulf Region (in the first attack on Iraq in 1991 and in OIF) and Afghanistan where its operation altitude is of no matter against forces that lack the materials or ability to engage them anyway.  Through progressive modernization programs the plane is still flying after 57 years of service, with many of the airframes being almost that age themselves!  Yes indeed, the plane is not is not "sexy" or equipped with "stealth technology" (matter of fact it looks like a 1911 flying around - those flat sides must reflect radar like a rubber ball off of a wall!).  This is of no matter in many cases as improvements to the ECW components and new tactics have made it a viable offensive weapon for the US.  Matter of fact, the US Air Force adapted the bomber to be used in the low level bomber role as far back as the 1960's, a role in which it still can be used today.

The B-52 is an American icon, some of the same planes are being flown today that were being flown by the current crews GRANDFATHERS in 24/7 missions during the Cold War holding the nuclear dogs of war in their bellies.  The platform is not scheduled to be totally removed from the US operational force for another 20 years, making it at its retirement close to matching the 1911's record for longest serving weapon in the military.  Its pretty incredible some of these planes have been in the air for 50 years, to think some of them may be flying for 70+ years when they get their well deserved retirement is just mind blowing...especially since they will be crewed by the GREAT-GRANDCHILDREN of the original crews...wow.

The Cult - Peace Dog

Not traditionally considered a metal group, the Cult is a British Band formed in 1983 originally called Southern Death Cult.  They started out as a progressive rock band but moved in the late 80's to a more harsh sound closer to the hair band metal sound ruling the airways at the time. Peace Dog is from the bands most successful album, 1987's Electric.  The song is a anti-war song in which the line "B-52 baby way up in the sky, come droppin' you love on me child" In the song B-52 is sung as "Bee-Five-Two" which probably was due to the band members having no idea what they were singing about, but whatever..the song was one of the better cut from the album...

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