New details about the epic B-52 mission to rescue a Cessna in Alaska

As we reported few weeks ago, on Nov. 10, two B-52s, launched from Minot and Barksdale AFB for a training mission, flew hundreds of miles off course to give assistance to a Cessna plane that had lost radio contact with Anchorage Air Traffic Control Center in bad weather, over Alaska.

While all the details about the successful rescue mission were released by the U.S. Air Force and can be found here, little was known about the mission the two Buffs were flying when they received the distress call.

But, since then, we gathered some more information.

The two B52s that helped the Cessna were taking part in Exercise Global Thunder 14, the largest Air Force Global Strike Command/STRATCOM drills of 2013. They were just two of 18 B-52 Stratofortress aircraft and several B-2 Spirit stealth bombers airborne at that time. More than 22 KC-135s along with 24hr E-6B TACAMO and LOOKING GLASS were supporting the exercise that had started with a MITO (Minimum Interval Take Off).

Global Thunder is a yearly 10-day exercise which incorporates a nuclear war scenario of which most major CONUS air bases are simulated destroyed by ICBMs (InterContinental Ballistic Missiles). AFGSC launches its B-52s and B-2s under MITO procedures and simulate a nuclear attack on Russia. Ground forces are also deployed and simulate detonation reports.

Barksdale and Minot based B-52s conduct various routes which take some up through Alaska and over Canada hence they were over the area that Sunday when the Cessna was requesting assistance.

Noteworthy, the detour did not compromise the B-52 simulated nuclear retaliation on Russia.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force


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About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.