B-52 flyby at the Air Force Museum thrills crowds on Friday

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Willard Williams, 78, a Dayton resident and U.S. Army veteran, said Friday he knows 10 of the men whose names appear on the memorial, a replica said to be about 80% the size of the city’s memorial wall. Vietnam War in Washington, D.C.

Two of those men Williams remembered in particular. He remembers being on patrol in Vietnam with two fellow soldiers on his first night in the country in 1968.

“They jokingly said, ‘Oh, we’ll get home before you,'” Williams said.

Within weeks, both men were killed, he said.

Simon Resterpo, 17, helps JD Wetterling find a name on the American Traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Friday, August 19, 2022 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Wetterling, a Vietnam veteran, has 8 friends on the wall. MARSHALL GORBY / STAFF

Simon Resterpo, 17, helps JD Wetterling find a name on the American Traveling Vietnam Veterans Memorial Friday, August 19, 2022 at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. Wetterling, a Vietnam veteran, has 8 friends on the wall. MARSHALL GORBY / STAFF

The B-52 flybys were done to help energize the museum event, but what makes them special?

“To put it in a nutshell, it’s a really great design, a really versatile design,” said museum historian Doug Lantry. “The basic design of the aircraft has been ideal for all its missions, essentially from 1955 until today.”

One of the most recognized and iconic aircraft, it has gone from aviation and military culture to pop culture, he said. One of Lantry’s favorite bands is the B-52s.

The B-52 was designed to serve as a long-range, high-altitude strategic nuclear deterrent. Over Vietnam it became a tactical weapon.

It was used in Desert Storm in 1990 and 1991, and it was adapted for close air troop support and other non-nuclear missions.

“He did all of that work really well,” Lantry said.

Because it is so large – it has a length of nearly 160 feet and a wingspan of 185 feet – the Air Force can fit modern systems and weapons there quite easily. It should serve in the 2050s.

“The motor, electronics and other features will change, but this iconic shape will remain the same,” Lantry said.

If so, ultimately the B-52 will have served the nation for a century or more, Lantry said.

The National Museum of the United States Air Force hosted a B-52 Fly-Over on Friday, August 19, 2022. MARSHALL GORBYSTAFF

The National Museum of the United States Air Force hosted a B-52 Fly-Over on Friday, August 19, 2022. MARSHALL GORBYSTAFF

The National Museum of the United States Air Force hosted a B-52 Fly-Over on Friday, August 19, 2022. MARSHALL GORBYSTAFF

The plane is still active, of course. US Air Forces Europe and Africa announced on Thursday that B-52s from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota had arrived at Royal Air Force Base Fairford, England, to support NATO.

Air Force Magazine recently reported that more updates for the aircraft are coming, with the B-52H set to be redesignated B-52J or B-52K when it receives new radar and engines.

Col. Louis Ruscetta, senior materiel chief for the B-52 program office, told the magazine that flight testing with the new radar will begin in late 2025 and the first production versions should be built by that date.

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