B-52s Land At Civilian Airport To Test Their Ability To Operate From Unfamiliar Airfields

B-52 land civil airport
Joseph Henson, a lineman with Million Air, marshals a B-52H Stratofortress assigned to 96th Bomb Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La. at Chennault International Airport, La., as part of exercise Bayou Vigilance April 12, 2024. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Ledbetter)

During exercise Bayou Vigilance, two B-52 Stratofortress bombers tested their capabilities by landing at Chennault International Airport in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

During the Bayou Vigilance exercise on April 12, 2024, a pair of B-52H Stratofortresses belonging to the 20th BS (Bomb Squadron) carried out a pretty unusual test conducting landings at a civilian airfield.

Bayou Vigilance exercises, designed to bolster the readiness and combat effectiveness of the 2nd Bomb Wing stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, involve simulated combat scenarios and strategic response demonstrations.

As part of this exercise, the wing tested its adaptability in austere conditions by executing landings and takeoffs at a civilian airfield. While it’s not the first time B-52s landed at a civil airport (it also happened to a B-52G during Desert Storm that had to land at Palermo Punta Raisi airport after experiencing an in-flight emergency), it’s certainly not too frequent.

A B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 96th Bomb Squadron, Barksdale Air Force Base, La. taxis at Chennault International Airport, La., as part of exercise Bayou Vigilance April 12, 2024. Exercise Bayou Vigilance is held to assure our Allies and partners that we are ready to execute nuclear operations and global strike anytime, anywhere, to deter, and if necessary, respond to a strategic attack. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Ledbetter)

“When it comes to nuclear war, all bets are off and we need to be prepared to adapt to the current situation,” said Lt. Col. Jared Patterson, 20th BS commander in a public release. “By demonstrating our ability to land at a civilian airfield, we’re demonstrating our ability to conduct operations.”

The B-52s landed at Chennault International Airport in Lake Charles, Louisiana, showcasing the unit’s capability to deploy globally. Patterson highlighted the flexibility of the B-52 fleet, stating, “So yes, we’re doing it close to home this time around, but this proved we can do it anywhere around the globe.”

The seamless landing at Chennault was the result of meticulous coordination between the 2nd Bomb Wing and airport personnel, highlighting the wing’s capacity to collaborate with local authorities and airfield management to achieve mission objectives.

Kevin Melton, Executive Director of Chennault International Airport, emphasized the significance of the partnership between the 2nd BW and the airport, stating that it not only provides an alternative training and operational site but also underscores the importance of the military-civilian relationship in safeguarding the nation’s security.

Senior Airman Justin Whitehead, 2nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, Capt. Joshua Benard, 20th Bomb Squadron radar navigator, and Capt. Stephen O’Donnell, 20th Bomb Squadron electron warfare navigator, line up stairs to a B-52H Stratofortress as they prepare to load a drag chute at Chennault International Airport, La., April 12, 2024. This was part of exercise Bayou Vigilance, which is held to enhance safety, security, and reliability of the bomber leg of the U.S. nuclear triad. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Nicole Ledbetter)
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.