Boeing B-52 Stratofortress
long-range bomber has been in continuous
service since 1954. Production of new aircraft ran from 1952 through
1962. Now 59 years hence at version 'H,' it is still our nation's primary
long-range bomber. That is a great testimony to the aircraft's initial
design and construction, but a sad testimony to our ability to design
and build a complete replacement. The B-1 bomber was a dismal failure
and the B-2 Stealth bomber is too expensive to build and maintain in
large quantities. This story from a 1957 edition of Radio & Television
News reports on the "K-System" computerized bombsight gear installed
in early B-52s that used radar for targeting. According to the writer,
nearly 1,000,000 American defense company workers at companies like
Eastman Kodak, General Motors, General Mills (yes, the breakfast cereal
people), Motorola, and roughly 3,000 others were employed directly or
indirectly in the manufacturing effort. Today, the DoD would subcontract
most of the production to China and other countries that would love
to see our demise.
B-52 Bomb Navigation System
First photos of system that pinpoints any spot on globe in any weather.
bombardier (left) and navigator (right) operate this two-man
station at master control panel of a later version of fabulous
"K-System" bombing-navigation controls.
Bombardier has complete control of aircraft for the final moments
of target run.
Far cry from the relatively simple "bombsight" of early World War II
is this later version of the "K-System" bombing-navigation controls
in new USAF B-52 Stratofortress bombers. These are first operational
views of a master control panel, just released 10 years after the system
was initially developed and produced by Sperry Gyroscope for the still-formidable
B-47 and B-36 squadrons of Strategic Air Command. First view here reveals,
by a selector switch above navigator's helmet (top right) , the transpolar
range capability of the bombers.
The K-System automatically
measures distance and time to target, computes ballistics of bomb's
curve for existing altitude, temperature and crosswinds, permits final
hairline adjustment via radar or optical sight, triggers bomb away at
proper instant, then helps the navigator to guide the shortest way home.
Originally designed, developed, and produced by Sperry Gyroscope,
manufacture of this critical gear was rapidly dispersed through other
plants of General Motors, National Cash Register, and IBM. Eastman Kodak,
Western Electric, General Mills, Motorola, and Farrand were multiple
prime or sub-system sources. Western Electric developed the radar. In
all, about one million factory workers and technicians in 36 states,
at 3050 companies large and small, have been directly engaged in this
Air Force program to supply needed K-Systems.
More than 70,000
individual parts make up the various computers and other elements of
a single K-System for an individual aircraft - about as many parts as
a modern automobile with power steering and automatic transmission.
Each system contains complex circuitry for hundreds of pre-tested vacuum
tubes, over 50 motors, and about 100 relays, with many sealed amplifiers
for quick unit replacement while in the air.
The original prototype
cost of nearly a half-million dollars was reduced to less than half
by manufacturing improvements in volume production. Nearly 900 major
improvements for system efficiency through all production channels have
been made in the last six years.
Sperry is now "phasing out"
its K-System activity, and turning to more advanced gear. Meantime,
the Air Force has announced the later-model B-52's will replace the
K-System with an improved "Brane" bombing system to be produced by IBM.
July 19, 2013