Above: USAF B-52H 60-0034 ‘MT’/‘Wise Guy’ arriving at Barksdale AFB after a ferry flight from Davis-Monthan AFB, where it had been in storage for over a decade. It still wears the ‘MT’ tail code from its previous unit, the 5th BW at Minot AFB. USAF/Master Sgt Ted Daigle
A SECOND US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress has been made airworthy and flown out of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, after over a decade in storage. The aircraft, 60-0034 ‘MT’/‘Wise Guy’, had been in desert storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan since August 14, 2008, when it was retired by the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. It was flown out again on May 14 by a 307th Bomb Wing crew to Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, prior to further work before eventually re-entering service.
The first of the type to fly out of AMARG was 61-0007 ‘MT’/‘Ghost Rider’, another former 5th BW aircraft, which left on February 13, 2015, also destined initially for Barksdale. After refurbishment in the Oklahoma Air Logistics Complex at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, it reflew there on August 30, 2016. It then returned to service, joining the 5th BW at Minot on September 27, 2016. The aircraft was brought back to life to replace Barksdale-based B-52H 61-0049, which was damaged by an on-board oxygen fire on January 28, 2014, subsequently being deemed uneconomical to repair.
On May 18, 2016, the loss of a further B-52H, 60-0047 ‘MT’ at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, led to a decision to regenerate a second aircraft from AMARG as a further attrition replacement. ‘Wise Guy’, which had already flown more than 17,000 flight hours before retirement, was selected as the most suitable aircraft for return to service. It took four months of work at Davis-Monthan, with a team of 13-20 maintainers working on it at any one time, before the aircraft was ready for its ferry flight to Barksdale. This required replacement of all its fuel cells, hoses and tyres, repairs to cracks in the rear main undercarriage and fitting two new engines to replace two that had been removed earlier. Multiple tests were carried out on the engines, undercarriage, fuel and egress systems to ensure the jet was flight worthy. A three-man crew, led by Colonel Robert Burgess, commander of the 307th Operations Group, then flew it, low and slow, to the Louisiana base.
Air Force Global Strike Command estimates it will cost around $30 million and work from approximately 550 personnel to fully restore the aircraft. This will include incorporating various recent upgrades that the aircraft has missed out on while in storage. Work will be completed after it is flown in February 2020 to Tinker Air Force base, where refurbishment is expected to be completed by early 2021. This will bring the USAF B-52H fleet back to 76 aircraft, the maximum number allowed under the New Strategic Arms Control Treaty (New START) with Russia.