More than 70 years after its first flight, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bomber continues to exceed expectations. Expected to be in service for a century, the eight-engine jet has taken on a new role in the US Air Force as a ‘freighter’.
The new mission was made possible with the application of the BOCS (On-Board Cargo System) container adapted to fit in the bomb hold of four B-52Hs.
The purpose of adapting the B-52 to carry cargo is to demonstrate the aircraft’s rapid deployment capability around the world.
In this scenario, bombers equipped with the BOCS system would be responsible for transporting fleet support and maintenance equipment, reducing the need to deploy dedicated planes to transport cargo.
According to the USAF, the BOCS container can hold 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg) and each B-52H can carry two of these compartments, for a total of 4,536 kg of cargo.
It is a volume well below the war capacity of the aircraft, which holds up to 31,500 kg of armaments, including cruise missiles, conventional bombs and nuclear weapons – in addition to weapons in pylons on the wings.
The type of cargo the BOCS can carry is limited by the dimensions of the system, which are proportionally limited by the measurements of the B-52H’s bomb hold.
The adaptation of the B-52H to carry cargo is the latest improvement on the veteran bombers built by Boeing between the 1950s and 1960s.
The next upgrades planned for the aircraft are the replacement of its eight engines by more modern turbofans supplied by Rolls-Royve and the introduction of a new EASA radar, in addition to the use of hypersonic weapons. The USAF plans to keep the B-52 active until 2050.