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B-52 Cold War Mission Finally Completed
by James Dunnigan
August 31, 2011

After preparing to do it for over half a century, an American B-52 will finally fly to Moscow from North America, using the shortest route (over the North Pole). This flight to Russia is not the first for B-52s, but it is the first using the short route, which was to be heavily used if B-52s, armed with nuclear weapons, were ever sent to war against Russia. This time, it’s a good will mission, to show off U.S. aircraft at a trade show (MAKS 2011, in late August). Other American aircraft shown at the show include the P-3C, A-10, F-16C, C-130J, C-5, F-15E and KC-10.

Earlier trips had been made (from 1992-2005) using longer routes. The destination was often trade shows. MAKS is a show for hundreds of companies that supply aviation and space related equipment, to gather to show off, and make sales. MAKS is held every two years, and the last one attracted over 650,000 visitors (buyers as well as buffs.)

Russia has always been nervous about anything flying at them via the North Pole, and they still have a missile warning system monitoring the top of the world. This warning system fell apart in the 1990s, but now it has been rebuilt a bit, just for old times’ sake. Two of these new radars have gone into operation in the last five years.

The rising price of oil over the last decade provided Russia with the cash to rebuild its ballistic missile early warning radar system. The first Voronezh-DM radar,  outside St Petersburg, was built in 18 months (versus over ten years for the ones it replaced). The new design uses much less electricity, has a smaller staff and is more reliable. Russia has adopted much Western technology, and work practices, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and it all shows in this radar station. The St Petersburg facility (which went online last year) replaces one that was in Latvia, and was dismantled in 2003, after going off line in 1998. The new radar in Armavir was built to replace defunct Soviet era radars in Azerbaijan and Ukraine. Both sites are using the new Voronezh-DM radar which has a range of 4,000 kilometers.

 


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