Rapid launch exercise at Minot AFB: 17 B-52 heavy bombers take off in sequence to test mission readiness

Jun 18 2012 - 6 Comments

A 17-ship rapid launch from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, was the highlight of Constant Vigilance, an exercise held on June 11, 2012 to test the B-52H Stratofortress force’s mission readiness.

The Cold War-like quick reaction launch included B-52 bombers from both Minot and Barksdale AFB, Louisiana that took the air one by one for a subsequent training mission.

Such exercises are regularly scheduled to check the B-52 Stratofortresses’ ability to respond to threats at a moment’s notice. During this training events, aircraft are launched by a method known “cart-starts” from cartridge starts: a small-controlled explosive is inserted into two of the eight engines of the heavy bomber. The charges jumpstart the engines (the remaining engines are started while the aircraft taxies to the runway) removing the need to use ground equipment normally used for aircraft’s startup.

Using cart-starts, startup time is cut from more than an hour to less than 10 minutes. Not bad for an aircraft with more than 50 years of combat operations under its belt.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

  • Reminds me of the halcyon days of my youth when our world was perched on the knife edge between Cold War paranoia and mutual assured destruction. We used to lie on our backs in the state park off the end of the runway at Grand Forks AFB and count rivets as the BUFs took to the air. We drank some beers too.

  • There’s also a low-quality video in Youtube. It’s incredible the sensation of these poweful birds coming to life!

  • Steve

    The G and H models use air carts, not shotgun cartridges. I think the D model was the last one to use cartridges.

  • Steve

    To complete my thought since I got distracted by the pretty pictures….. The one hour start time was to run engines and align the navigation system. It takes 45 minutes to an hour to align the INS on anything that uses it. That time can be reduced to less if they do an alignment every two days or so. Once aligned the INS will hold its alignment for roughly 48-72 hours, but the longer it goes without realignment, the more it wanders.

  • Ziya

    MITO- Minimum Interval Takeoff. Reminded Cold War times.

  • Tim C

    The only time I saw one of those was in 1982 when the 320th BW scrambled their B-52G’s at Mather AFB in California. The thing I remember about it is that the ground shook under my feet and I was nearly 4 miles from the base!