Airborne Awesomosity

The Cold War That Wasn’t – The Turboprop B-52

Can you sharpen pencils with it?

The original B-52 design study

The B-52 was originally going to be a turboprop aircraft and not the plane we know today. Let’s look at the implications of what this would have changed.


Sixty years ago they would have never guessed it would still be in the air today

The change over to turbjet from turboprop didn’t happen until later in development


The Boeing B-52 was always going to be the next stage in high altitude bombers during its development. The aircraft left its wake were many and varied. Some I have covered such as the B-36 and its B-60 variant really aren’t the surprises. It is the ones that made it to the prototype stage that will catch your eye more. We will cover those at a later date. Things like the Martin XB-51 that were the pinnacle of the previous generation.  This would be powered by a turboprop variation of the old engine out of the P80 Shooting Star and for use in the B-52. It would be christened as the Wright T-35 here.


What German engineering documents? We are learning by example.

Even as the B-52 evolved it would still continue to be configured to use the turboprops. Which would only make sense at this time. Jets were notorious for fuel usage and hence short range. You could get the best of both worlds out of a turboprop.  You also got a look like it came out of WWII and not the future which must have turned off a few people trying to fund this futuristic world beater bomber. So the decision was made to move over to the power of the future! To the power of 1939. Well axial flow jets at least.  Just take a note of the number of engines that the B-52 has been designed to carry. Six early turboprops to four later ones and finally eight early jets. It wouldn’t be until the late eighties that a proposal would be made to reduce that back to four turbofans. Which would be killed by the low cost of fuel at the time.


If you look closely in the cockpit there is a stamp that says "Boeing was here"

So how does this fit into this series. Other than I was on vacation this week and felt a need for a quick post. You know in case you felt like I was slacking.  Take a look at the Bear above. The TU-95 and the B-52 have always been evenly matched over the years. The Bear is for all intents and purposes what would have happened if the B-52 had been built at the 464-35 stage.  The Bear was still capable of nearly the same conventional loads and even cruise missiles that the Stratofortess carried over the decades. So the question has to be asked. Would the B-52 turboprop have paved the way for the USAF to continue down that path or would they have retired it quickly?  It would have had its trial by fire in Vietnam very quickly as well. So it’s an interesting what if scenario for an aircraft we all know and love very well.

  • Rob Connolly

    Dear Fodder, I am glad you are back. Please continue to post about terrifying Fifties and Sixties electro-mechanical Infernal Engines. Yours Truly, A Fan.

    • Wayne Moyer

      Hmm electro-mechanical infernal engines. Now I feel like I need to do more piston engines in the Cold War. Considering I still have this wonderful back log of a series waiting in the wings to run that might be a fun one to run. “Antiquity in the time of the atom”

      • P161911

        I’ll throw out another idea series. WWII equipment still in use during Gulf War I, 1991. There were still a couple of aircraft carriers. The Navy still had Garrands. The Army still had M3 grease guns in tanks. Lots of dumb bombs, possibly WWII vintage. Battleships were used. The 1911 hadn’t been completely replaced by the Beretta. Maybe a few miscellaneous support aircraft.

        • Chris Lewis

          While the US battleships were still in service (as late as the early 90’s) they were still using shells and charges bagged in WWII.

          • Wayne Moyer

            If I remember correctly the WWII bags are what lead to the Iowa turret explosion.

          • P161911

            If any one got a Purple Heart out of that, it would have been made in 1945. In fact I believe that the military is STILL giving out Purple Hearts made in 1945. They made a HUGE batch in anticipation of massive casualties from an invasion of Japan.

          • Victor

            Love these archives .

  • Victor

    After all these years the venerable B-52 is still out there getting it done. What an aircraft.

  • Victor

    The mention of Models brought back memories of all the kits I assembled during my youth .