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The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has one of the longest and most transformative design phases of any airplane ever. It began in the mid 1940s as a propeller bomber designed to replace the ubiquitous Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress of World War Two. However, the design was passed over in favor of the massive Convair B-36 Peacekeeper postwar, but would get another chance in the design competitions of the late 1940s. There, the B-52 competed against a modified B-36, the B-60.
The B-52 was much more expensive than the B-60 during the prototyping stage, thanks to the fact that all the tooling and machinery had to be rebuilt, while the B-60 reused a large amount of the B-36’s tooling. Additionally, the B-52 only carried about 60% of the bomb load of the B-60 (43,000 pounds versus 70,000+). However, it was much faster, smaller, and ultimately (despite pneumatic problems which grounded the first XB-52 for a year) more reliable. Because of this, the B-52 won the contract, and entered service in 1955. It hasn’t left service since.
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