As the Air Force and the United States moved into the 1950s and 1960s, the choices that were made by President Eisenhower became central to the long-term success and security of the United States. Eisenhower was a General and military leader with the Army in the Second World War, but as the President, he realized that the times and needs were changing. He took different steps to make sure that the United States Air Force, in the form of the Strategic Air Command, was first in priority for military funding and support, and then directly after followed the U.S. Navy. The Army, due to the priority believed by President Eisenhower was considered the third line of defense in many ways, and this caused a lot of resentment among top Army brass and Army military leadership.
The strength of the United States Air Force was revealed first a year after its inception, when the United States successfully kept West Berlin supplied by airborne means during the infamous Soviet Berlin blockade in 1948. This was the first opposition between four decades of tense United States and Soviet relations, a period eventually known as the “Cold War.” The Soviet Union exploded their first atomic bomb in 1949, and the tension and political gamesmanship began. The Air Force responded with assertive action, and put into service the giant B-36 Bomber, designed to carry thermonuclear weapons. The B-36 was the first long-range bomber, and it had intercontinental range of 6,000 miles, and a huge payload capacity of 72,000 pounds. It paved the way for the B-52 Stratofortress, and the B-1 and B-2 bombers.
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The B-36 bomber was a huge bomber but it was nearly obsolete from its first launching, because despite its size it was a piston aircraft in a new dawning age of Jet Aircraft. The issue that kept the B-36 in service for several years was the fact that its replacement, the B-47 Stratojet did not have the operational range necessary to attack the Soviet Union, and it did not have the ability to carry the hydrogen bomb. It was not until the B-52 Stratofortress became fully operational in the late 1950s that the B-36 was retired.
The B-36 was the heart of the Air Force response for many years, and finally was retired in 1954 when production was ceased.