B-52s were first introduced during President Harry Truman’s term in office and are still going strong in the Air Force’s tactical and strategic arm. It has been a mainstay for all these years because of a number of reasons. But, many argue that such a ridiculously large and inefficient plane should be phased out and replaced with a modern alternative. Half of the B-52 fleet has already been grounded in recent years due to budget constraints, and numerous aerospace companies have tried to make bids for its replacement. Boeing was also interested at one point and in the 1980s and 1990s wanted to convert Boeing 747 into a viable replacement as a weapons delivery system. At a full capacity, it was reportedly able to carry more than 70 cruise missiles.
The aim was to give another dimension to the Air Force’s capability at 15 percent cost of the B-52 and ability to carry and perform much more. Another shrewd thing about the new Boeing 747s was that it would have been difficult to tell the difference between a military plane from a civilian one. Using this urban camouflage, the planes could easily land on civilian airports in need of discreet operations, refuel and get back in the air.
It was interestingly named as Cruise Missile Carrier Aircraft (CMCA) and was supposed to be retrofitted 727-200C cargo version of the 747. There were nine launchers present inside on tracks inside the cabin. Each launcher would hold eight missiles, and that could be hidden in the backside of the aircraft. A door on the right side of the tail of the aircraft was used to launch the missile into the airstream. A large part of the aircraft’s first-class cabin was to be used as a Command and Control Center. It was a good arrangement overall.
But, the project was shelved by Reagan administration since the B-1 bomber began to receive more funding and eventually became one of the main bombers of the USAF. Also, at that time, there was a lot sentiment with the B-52 due to its successful deployment in the first Gulf War. But, there might be a few aircraft modified by the USAF without many of us knowing about it. The recent downing of a French plane in Egypt and Ukranian transport plane over Crimea shows us that enemy thinks the Air Force is using modified civilian aircraft to take part in operations. It is highly unethical, but what have we learned to expect from wars?