Military

Scrapped B-52 bomber to return to service after rescue from the boneyard

A B-52 Stratofortress, nicknamed "Wise Guy," makes its final approach to Barksdale Air Force Base, La
A B-52 Stratofortress, nicknamed "Wise Guy," makes its final approach to Barksdale Air Force Base, La
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A note found inside the cockpit of “Wise Guy"
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A note found inside the cockpit of “Wise Guy"
Lieutenant Colonel Eric Barkley, an 11th Bomb Squadron weapons system officer, unloads, “Wise Guy,” a B-52 Stratofortress after flying into Barksdale Air Force Base
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Lieutenant Colonel Eric Barkley, an 11th Bomb Squadron weapons system officer, unloads, “Wise Guy,” a B-52 Stratofortress after flying into Barksdale Air Force Base
A B-52 Stratofortress, nicknamed "Wise Guy," makes its final approach to Barksdale Air Force Base, La
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A B-52 Stratofortress, nicknamed "Wise Guy," makes its final approach to Barksdale Air Force Base, La
"Wise Guy" taxis into Barksdale Air Force Base
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"Wise Guy" taxis into Barksdale Air Force Base
Colonel Robert Burgess, 307th Operations Group commander at the controls of "Wise Guy"
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Colonel Robert Burgess, 307th Operations Group commander at the controls of "Wise Guy"

A retired Cold War US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber has been rescued from an Arizona boneyard where it has sat since 2008, and is being returned to active duty. Nicknamed "Wise Guy," it has been made flightworthy and flew from the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, on May 14, 2019, where it will be completely restored.

The US B-52 fleet, which first took to the air 67 years ago, is the world's oldest heavy strategic bomber force, with planes being flown by crews that are grandchildren of the original pilots.

There are 58 still in active service and 18 in reserve out of 744 that were built, but the current shrunken fleet isn't due to attrition so much as to a series of strategic arms treaties with the Soviet Union and Russia that restrict the total number of bombers. That means that places like the AMARG boneyard are home to a lot B-52s that were perfectly flightworthy, but have been left to bake in the sun while technicians treated them like Christmas trees with wings that they could raid for spare parts.

"Wise Guy" taxis into Barksdale Air Force Base
"Wise Guy" taxis into Barksdale Air Force Base

One example is "Wise Guy," which probably would have gone the way of all good aircraft if it hadn't been for an incident on May 19, 2016 when a B-52H crashed and caught fire on Guam due to a botched takeoff abort. This meant that the Air Force could reactivate one of the mothballed bombers and "Wise Guy" was selected. The last time there was a reactivation was the B-52 "Ghost Rider," which was brought back to service in 2015.

According to the Air Force, "Wise Guy" has flown 17,000 hours and the years on the ground have taken their toll so it took four months to make the plane flightworthy. Two engines were missing, the rear landing gear was cracked, and the fuel cells, tires, and hoses needed replacing. In addition, the ejection seats had to be repaired using a bucket of spare parts. This was followed by extensive ground tests before the flight to Louisiana.

"Wise Guy" will now be the center of a US$30-million restoration by 550 technicians that is scheduled to be complete by 2021.

In an interesting bit of prophecy, the cockpit of "Wise Guy" contained a metal clipboard with the following written on it in black marker, "AMARG, this is 60-034, a cold warrior that stood sentinel over America from the darkest days of the Cold War to the global fight against terror. Take good care of her….until we need her again."

Source: US Air Force

8 comments
Vanilla Cat
BUFFs don't die. They apparently don't even fade away either!
guzmanchinky
A really ugly plane, but one that has played a part in so much military history...
Observer101
$30 mil is cheap for what we get. Why not do 2 of them right now, and have one sitting as a spare, ready to go? Just in case it is needed?
chidrbmt
Seems way outdated for this day of computer drone/missile age? Be so easy to knock this lumbering giant out of the sky.
ljaques
I grew up on Little Rock AFB (Arkansas SAC base) listening to the B-52 engine tests at 4am on occasion. To see them continue to fly the skies amazes me. Go for it, old Wise Guy dude.
Dreadcthulhu
Observer101 - the number of strategic bombers the US can have operational at one time is limited by a treaty we have with the Russians - note how they activated this one after another B-52 crashed. Whether or not those treaties still make sense is another issue. Here is a brief summary of those treaties - https://www.armscontrol.org/print/2556 chidrbmt - the B-52 is still extremely useful against various insurgent forces that lack heavy anti-air ability. It can fly well above the range of shoulder-launch AA missiles. Against more technically savvy opponents, well, that is what cruise missiles are for.
Kpar
Observer101, the article mentioned that it was a treaty obligation that limits the number of BUFFs (as well as other types of "heavies"), so, as one other leaves service another one is brought back. And chidrbmt, the B-52 is used as a "standoff weapons" platform in its strategic role, or used as a "bomb truck" when there are few or no AA thrreats. Vanillia Cat and guzmanchinky, two thumbs up!
Martin Hone
The statement that this aircraft was scrapped is obviously wrong. Long term storage maybe .....
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