The B-52 has a place in history.
For over 60 years, it’s been used in missions throughout the world, and its lifespan is projected to extend beyond 2040.
The plane is the subject of the exhibit, “BUFF: The B-52 Story,” which opens at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History on Saturday.
“The exhibit really focuses on the B-52 airplane in general,” said Jennifer Hayden, director of public relations and marketing for the museum. “It covers its past, present and future.”
The exhibit is also curated from the museum’s permanent collection.
Hayden said visitors will be guided through the B-52’s history of modifications and upgrades, from development by the Boeing six-man “dream team” in 1948 that designed the first prototypes to the aircraft’s role in the Iraq War in 2003.
The B-52 played an important role in nuclear weapons testing, starting in 1956, and the exhibition highlights many strategic operations.
It also displays information on Chrome Dome, a 1960s initiative in which B-52s were on continuous airborne alert to respond to any missile attack from the Soviet Union.
Pop culture even plays a role in this engaging exhibition, which includes multiple B-52-themed movie posters over the years.
The exhibit includes historic photos, as well as flight suits worn during missions.
“We have some ‘broken arrow’ missiles that were accidentally dropped from a B-52,” she said.
These missiles were dropped in 1966 by a B-52 off Spain.
But the biggest piece of the exhibit is the museum’s own B-52B Stratofortress.
“It’s our largest artifact that we have,” Hayden says. “I love the fact that people can come in and learn about the history. They can see the interior of our plane.”
The restored plane is on display at the museum’s 9-acre outdoor exhibit.
Hayden said this aircraft is Albuquerque’s airplane – delivered directly from Boeing to Kirtland Air Force Base in 1955, never assigned to another Air Force base – and it was used for atomic testing in the Pacific during Operation Redwing in 1956 and Operation Dominic in 1962.
It’s the only existing B-52B that has dropped an atomic bomb during testing.
“The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History is proud to celebrate the incredible military service of the B-52, and we are thrilled to have one here that is so tied to Albuquerque’s military history,” said Jim Walther, museum director. “I hope many visitors will come to see our B-52, and learn about the history of this iconic aircraft and its important missions.”