Tag Archives: Minot Air Force Base

U.S. Air Force B-52 strategic bomber loses one engine over North Dakota

A USAF Stratofortress bomber lost one of its 8 engines 25 miles to the northeast of Minot AFB, North Dakota. Type to re-engine the Buff?

On Jan. 4, 2017, in a quite unusual incident, a B-52H belonging to the 5th Bomb Wing lost one Pratt & Whitney TF33 turbofan engine shortly after take off from Minot AFB, North Dakota.

According to DefenseNews, that broke the news, the aircraft, one of the 76 “Buffs” still in service with the U.S. Air Force, was flying a training mission with 5 crew members; the engine fell in an unpopulated area without causing damage on the ground and a UH-1N Huey helicopter was dispatched to the site for a survey.

Few details are available at the moment as the U.S. Air Force investigates the root cause of the issue.

For instance, it’s still not clear whether a single engine or an entire nacelle pod (housing two TF-33 engines) attached to one of the four underwing pylons detached from the plane. Anyway, the aircraft managed to return safely to Minot: the loss of one (or even two on the same pod) is not a big deal for an aircraft powered by 8 engines.

Nevertheless, the incident is likely to fuel debate about the B-52’s engine program. With a +60 year-long career, the B-52 is a still quite advanced and heavily weaponized “dinosaur” expected to remain in service until something around 2040, when it will be fully replaced by the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider.

Various options are known to have been considered so far, including an upgrade for the current TF-33 engines or their replacement with a different type: the Pratt PW2000 or other potential substitutes pitched by General Electric and Rolls-Royce that are likely to respond an eventual flying branch’s RFP.

Anyway it’s not the first time some part detaches from a U.S. Air Force aircraft mid-air: on Nov. 1, 2016, a U.S. Air Force KC-10 Extender aerial refueler belonging to the 60th Air Mobility Wing was forced to perform an emergency landing at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, after losing its flying boom that fell in a hay-field.


Five U.S. Strategic bombers conduct simultaneous missions around the North Pole and over Alaska

Dubbed “Polar Roar” the latest show of force saw U.S. bombers flying to the North and Baltic Seas in a Cold War-style exercise.

One B-52H Stratofortress from the 2nd Bomb Wing, Barksdale AFB, La., two B-52Hs from the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot AFB, N.D., and two B-2A Spirits from the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman AFB, Mo., were launched in simultaneous, non-stop flights from the U.S. to the North and Baltic Seas, around the North Pole and over Alaska, and over the Pacific Ocean to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, respectively.

The mission, dubbed “POLAR ROAR”, saw some of the bombers drop inert weapons (in the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex) and included joint training with some regional partners whose fighters had the opportunity to intercept the heavy bombers.

Interestingly, during their trasit through the European region, the Danish F-16s supporting NATO’s continuous Baltic Air Policing mission, along with JAS-39 Gripens from the Partnership for Peace nation of Sweden.  Additionally, Typhoons from Great Britain – one of the Baltic Air Policing detachments – were airborne in western Estonia training areas while the bomber transited the Baltic Sea off the Estonian coast.

As highlighted by one of our sources, it’s worth a note the fact that the Russian Su-27s based at Kaliningrad, were not scrambled to perform VID (Visual Identification) of the Stratofortress bomber in the Baltic:  the Flankers are frequently launched to intercept the U.S. RC-135 Rivet Joint deployed to RAF Mildenhall and flying almost daily off the Russian Oblast. Moreover, the NATO countries always scramble their QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) fighters when the Russian Tu-95 or Tu-160 bombers transit in international airspace off their sovereign airspace.

Realistic exercises like POLAR ROAR are conducted periodically in coordination with North American Aerospace Defense Command: usually, on a 24-hour period, during these drills nearly every USSTRATCOM component, task force, unit, command post and bomb wing takes part in the training events which are aimed at improving all the Command capabilities: space, cyber, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, global strike, and ballistic missile defense.

B-52 and B-2s perform their MITO departures and go up to the Arctic and back, controlled by several E-6B Mercury aircraft.

Some strategic bombers route up over Nova Scotia and up past Thule/Greenland and either go all the way around North of Canada and back down through Canada/Alaska or they turn round and go back the way they came. Other waves go up over Alaska first and come back down viceversa.

According to the U.S. Air Force “POLAR ROAR demonstrates the ability of the U.S. bomber force to provide a flexible and vigilant long-range global-strike capability and provides unique and valuable opportunities to train and integrate with allies and partners.”

In simple words: it’s a message to Russia. Noteworthy, after such U.S. Strategic Command yearly exercise, a surge in missions flown by the Russian Air Force bombers close to European airspaces is recorded by NATO.

Image credit: U.S. Air Force

Up close and personal with the B-52 bombers deployed to the UK for drills in Europe

We had the privilege of being invited to RAF Fairford on the 11th June 2016 to meet squadron personnel from the United States Air Force 5th Bomb Wing, Minot AFB.

Over the period of Jun. 2 and 3, 2016, three B-52H Stratofortress bombers arrived direct from their home base of Minot, North Dakota.

The three aircraft deployed are 23rd Bomb Squadron “The Barons” aircraft:

60-0007/MT B-52H Stratofortress

60-0037/MT B-52H Stratofortress

60-0044/MT B-52H Stratofortress

A total of 250 U.S Air Force personnel have been deployed to RAF Fairford in support of these aircraft.

U.S. Air Force Col. Kieran Denehan, 5th Expeditionary Operations Group commander explained the reason for the deployment “We are here primarily to support two exercises the first one is BALTOPS2016 and the second one is Saber Strike.”

“BALTOPS” is primarily a Maritime exercise around the Baltic Sea involving 17 NATO and non-NATO partner countries with the B-52’s role being Maritime interdiction & Mining operations.

“Saber Strike” is a land exercise over multiple locations in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania involving in excess of 10,000 NATO personnel. The B-52 will be working with foreign JTACS (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) and Army units.


Major Devita, 5th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron commander, informed us that this years exercise there was more involvement with the CAOC (Combined Air Operations Centre) in Uedem, Germany to seamlessly integrate both the Air and Maritime assets.

Both exercises ran concurrently and due to the B-52s many different roles it was possible for the strategic bomber to take part in both exercises within the same mission although they would usually only fly one at a time due to the complex planning of each missions individually.


Major Devita did state that on a couple of occasions over the course of the deployment both would be flown in a single mission increasing the duration of the sortie past the 10 hour mark.

The mission that we witnessed launching from RAF Fairford during the visit involved two B-52s involved in a mine laying in the Baltic Sea. The B-52s would be working directly with German Eurofighters, Polish and American F-16s as well as Swedish JAS39 Grippens. Other air assets where also to be involved however not working directly with the B-52s. The sea borne maritime forces would then recover the dropped inert mines as part of an anti-mine operation simulating an enemy having laid mines in friendly waters.


Lt Col Maginness, 23rd Bomb Squadron Commander, gave an overview of the B-52s capabilities in today’s world: “if it is an Air to Ground munition the B-52 can carry it”. These munitions include laser guided, GPS guided and freefall bombs (dumb bombs), mines and the cruise missile.

The Sniper targeting pod is able to perform NTISR (non-traditional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) missions. This imagery can be collected, examined and translated into target coordinates for the B-52 or passed on to other players in the area. It can also be collected for other agencies for further analysis and future mission planning. The B-52 has an extensive & robust ECM suite (electronics counter measures), which allows the crew to examine the electronic threat and again analyse an appropriate response.


Future upgrades, including a fully digital communications suite called Connect and the ability to carry SMART weapons internally the laser & GPS guided munitions that are currently carried on the external wing mounted points have both been funded and upgrades taking place on the fleet.

With upgrades over the years and future upgrades coming online the B-52H is an extremely capable platform and with the huge range of the aircraft (unrefueled air 2 air) it is still a very viable asset to mission planners. With a first flight in 1952 and an out-of-service date of 2040 it’s not inconceivable that we will see 80-year-old B-52s finally retiring to the desert. Another amazing fact about its longevity is that the United States of America has only existed since 1776 so by final retirement the B-52 will have existed for almost 1/3rd of the total time that the United States of America has.


Once again Macks Aviation Photography would like to extend their thanks and appreciation to Sahara Fales, SrA, USAF of the 5th Expeditionary Operations Group Public Affairs office in providing the opportunity to take part in this event, special thanks go to Col. Kieran Denehan, 5th Expeditionary Operations Group commander who is justifiably proud of the men & women under his command on this deployment, all of whom made this article possible.


Two B-2 Spirit stealth bombers join three B-52s deployed to UK in a show of Global Reach

Two U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command B-2s performed a hot-pit refueling and an engine-running crew change at RAF Fairford, where three B-52s are already deployed.

In what the U.S. Air Force dubbed “a demonstration of Global Reach”, two B-2 Spirit bombers performed a hot-pit refueling and an engine-running crew change activity at RAF Fairford, UK, on Jun. 7.

The two stealth bombers traveled from Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, to the UK, with both active duty and Air National Guard Airmen from the 509th and 131st Bomb Wings to validate the vital importance of the British airbase in projecting Washington’s strategic bomber force across the world.

“Conducting the hot-pit refueling at RAF Fairford showcased the capability of the aircraft to forward deploy and deliver conventional and nuclear anytime and anywhere,” says the U.S. Air Force in a release.

The tests took place while three B-52 Stratofortresses from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota are deployed to RAF Fairford to take part in multinational Exercises BALTOPS 15 and SABER STRIKE 15, two annual exercises held over international waters in the Baltic Sea and the territory of the Baltic states and Poland.

The “short-term deployment,” similar to that conducted last year (in that case the B-2s remained in the UK for a few days) and supported by more than 330 personnel, was planned to integrate the B-52s into several exercise activities, including air intercept training, simulated mining operations during SABER STRIKE, inert ordnance drops during BALTOPS, and close air support, in close coordination with regional allies: in other words the U.S. flexes its muscles in the Baltics where Russia has become increasingly present (and “aggressive”).

“Participation of B-52s in Exercises BALTOPS and SABER STRIKE demonstrates our nation’s steadfast commitment to promoting regional stability and security, fostering cooperation and increasing interoperability as we work alongside our allies toward mutual goals,” said U.S. Navy Adm. Cecil D. Haney, U.S. Strategic Command commander.

USSTRATCOM’s bomber force regularly launch round-trip missions from CONUS (Continental US) or deploy to airbases around the world to perform combined training and theater security cooperation engagements with allies and partners.

In April, four B-52s flew round-trip flights to the Arctic and North Sea regions as part of the POLAR GROWL exercise that also featured strategic bombers air intercept training by interceptors from the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands.

More Recently, two B-52s took part in Exercise Eager Lion 2015, dropping ordnance on a Jordanian range during a nonstop +30-hour mission from the U.S.


Dutch F-16s intercepted U.S. B-52 bombers over Europe. And took some awesome photographs

U.S. Air Force B-52s launched on round-trip missions to the Arctic and North Sea last week were used as simulated targets for Dutch F-16s on Quick Reaction Alert.

On Apr. 2 two U.S. B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers, one assigned to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, and the other assigned to Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, conducted round-trip missions from their home bases to the Arctic and North Sea regions respectively.

The two bombers were taking part in “Polar Growl”, an exercise aimed at testing the ability of the aircraft and their aircrews to operate with international partners in the northern part of the globe.

One of the aircraft, the one belonging to the 2nd Bomb Wing from Barksdale, flew in the North Sea and was intercepted multiple times by the Royal Canadian Air Force, the U.K. Royal Air Force and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

RNlAF F-16 intercept B-52

The other “Buff” on the Arctic leg, belonging to the 5th Bomb Wing from Minot,  flew with Canadian CF-188 fighters and around the North Pole.

Interestingly the Dutch F-16s of the RNlAF took some stunning photographs of the (quite rusty!) B-52 they intercepted over the North Sea.

RNlAF F-16 intercept B-52 2

The U.S. regularly conducts similar combined training and theater security engagements with Allies and partners. In October 2014, B-52s were involved in NATO Exercise NOBLE JUSTIFICATION while in June of the same year Air Force Global Strike Command B-52s and B-2s deployed to RAF Fairford, U.K., in to train alongside regional partners.

RNlAF F-16 intercept B-52 4

Last time U.S. bombers were launched on Arctic missions, the Russians reacted with a spike in missions flown by their warplanes in the Baltic Sea and around the Scandinavian peninsula.

Image credit: Frank Crébas/Koninklijke Luchtmacht