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View Diary: Flying the B-52 - Part 1 (216 comments)

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  •  why 2 navigators? (9+ / 0-)

    First, thanks Major Kong! 'Greatly enjoy your writing.A previous poster asked why 2 navigators. As I was one of these guys sitting backwards in the basement, here are my thoughts on the subject. Hopefully, others will have more info to add.
    Several reasons for that, IMO. All BUFs were originally intended to carry several A-or Hydrogen bombs to unpronouncable targets in very northern countries. Among those bombs were often two wing-mounted AGM 28 missiles, or their many upgraded versions. These were “programmed” by the navigator: Turn points of the missile's flight, target destination, etc. Along the way, the missile had to be fed updated position reports. The nav provided these,  using the BUFF's nav computer (not GPS, back then), OR, if it broke, and it sometimes did, he did it manually, by inputting radar fixes taken by the other navigator, the radar navigator. A B52, up until relatively recently, had no sophisticated computers, all "steam gauge". This included cathode ray tube radar, an analog computer system all gears and dials. Doppler radar, which wasn't worth spit overwater, and sometimes "ran away" on land, too. On its good days, it provided groundspeed and drift angle, two crucial items needed to navigate. Thecold war BUF was designed to be navigated only by passive methods, without any outgoing electronic signals that Russia might pick up when you were on your way to visit them. After a certain point in the flight to your target, there was radio silence, radar set off.  You could monitor a radio channel to get the “go code”, but you couldn't call back to base to report your position.  So, celestial navigation, dead reckoning, and a little bit of radar, turned on instantly, and then turned off, just enough to get a fix off a contour or landmark. The navigator got you to the bomb run start point: The radar nav, with his bigger scope, aimed the plane through the bomb run, and set in the figures needed to trip the bomb release mechanism at the right time. IIRC, the nav tried to keep the aircraft within 12 miles or better of desired track. Hey, you were going 7 miles a minute, and 12 miles was the equivalent of your car's GPS getting you on the right block of your Burger King destination. At that point, the radar navigator turned on his big scope and found the bombing aim points.
    It was a lot different dropping iron bombs in the Vietnam era, but that's another comment.

    •  Lots of wires... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sawgrass727, bobinson, elfling

      Back in the early '80s, I visited the boneyard near Tucson. They had BUFFs out there, in storage, but IIRC mostly to be cannibalized for a piece where the fuselage top joins the wings (I want to say the "Y joint").

      But they let us crawl around a B-52 there, and told us (again, IIRC) there was something over 25,000 miles of copper wire in a B-52. I believed it -- the wiring harnesses were huge.

    •  We take computers too much for granted (0+ / 0-)

      Trying to do a bombing run with celestial navigation and vectors and a little bit of visuals... man oh man.

      Fry, don't be a hero! It's not covered by our health plan!

      by elfling on Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 08:51:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  bomb run (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elfling

        The bomb run preferably -wasn't done on celestial. I guess if that's all we had, maybe we'd have done it. Never had to do that, thank god.  Getting TO the bomb run starting point (IP in bomber slang, for initial point) was done with the aid of celestial navigation. The bomb run itself was usually done with the radar navigator putting his (electronic) crosshairs on the target, as seen on radar, OR more frequently, on offset aiming points, which might be a near by mountain top, railroad yard, whatever. The radar nav would previously put in the target location into his computer counters---so many feet , say, north and east, of the mountain top he could pick out on radar. The computer would then aim the airplane to the target, based on the radar nav's crosshairs on his mountain top "offset". This was a method used to drop a nuke on say an underground missile site that had no distinguishing terrain or building features on top of it. The nav and radar nav crosschecked the "offset" data put into the radar nav's computer---if you were wrong, your bombs would drop on the wrong place.....the bomber crew's great fear.
        Another way was using the radar range marks and a stop watch, no computer involved. You computed (slide rule, didn't have those little calculators we all get for free from our banks now) when to hit the bomb release, based on when you passed a landmark--might be a stream, a building,  and you used your best known ground speed, crosswind, time of fall of the bomb(s) and "trail", meaning how far the bombs would "fly" forward, after release. The aircraft, hopefully, would fly faster than the bombs, and you'd be the hell out of there before fireworks ensued. Most of this was, like the B52 itself, developed from WWII.

    •  Duh, goofed up (0+ / 0-)

      I see I have the navigators facing rearward in my previous post. Not so. Embarrassed.

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