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B-52s: Lethal, flying and here at Nellis

This B-52 flew in from Barksdale AFB in Louisiana.

It’s Monday, and we're standing on the flight line at Nellis Air Force Base. In front of us, in a row, stand three B-52 bombers in their characteristic U.S. Air Force gray.

They flew in to take part in very sophisticated weapons training taking place right now over the Nevada desert.

Unless you wear a uniform, you don't get this close.

Later, high above the tarmac, we're in the cockpit with Major Matt Guasco.

This is his office: he's the pilot.

“It's a beautiful thing. It's old technology married with new. We are not going anywhere for a very long time,” Guasco says, as he gives a tour of his cramped work space stuffed with dials, screens and levers.

He's not kidding about this plane sticking around.

The B-52 first flew in 1955 and it's been the strategic backbone of the U.S. Air Force ever since.

The Air Force wants to keep it flying into the 2050s, when it will be almost 100 years old, in honor largely because it’s considered the most versatile weapons platform.

This plane flew in from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. It's been flying since 1961.

Sure, pilots and co-pilots fly it, but it’s the maintenance crew who make sure this B-52 gets off the ground.

News 3 asked one of the maintenance experts, Senior Master Sergeant Clarence Carmack, what he likes about maintaining it.

“That it's older than I am,” Carmack says. “I love the fact that even as old as it is they can’t seem to replace it.”

“It's amazing the thought process - this was designed with slide rules, not computers,” he says.

These days, the B-52 is a blend of old school and high tech: The cockpit is stuffed with analog dials and high-tech displays.

“There’s always modifications being done to the electronic systems on 'em,” says Master Sergeant David Smith, one of the maintenance crewmen who came with the plane from Barksdale.

Decades later, this huge bomber remains impressive: eight engines, a wingspan of 185 feet, and 159 feet long.

We ask the pilot how she flies.

“She flies like she looks. It's fun. You have to work to fly this aircraft. If you do not fly this aircraft, it will fly you,” says Major Guasco.

The plane is sturdy and lethal. On the level below the flight deck sits the weapons officer who controls up to 70,000 pounds of weapons.

“A lot of firepower. Pretty much every smart weapon in the U.S. inventory we can carry on a B-52,” says Capt. Kenny Drew.

He's 31. This B-52 is almost twice as old as he is.

The Air Force has other bombers, but few with such history, and none with such longevity, which means this 57-year-old is nowhere near retirement.

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