As shown by the photo in this post, a B-52H bomber, tail number 61-0009, in non-flyable status at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) was recently taken out of storage and is expected to be towed to the Pima Air & Space Museum off base, where its wings, fuselage, and horizontal stabilizer will be removed in order to support research and modernization efforts on the B-52 fleet.
As explained by Brian Brackens, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Public Affairs, in the article B-52 parts to be used in research, modernization and innovation efforts, once removed, the left wing and fuselage [main body of the aircraft] will eventually be relocated to a Boeing facility in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where it will serve as an integration model. The right wing and horizontal stabilizer of 61-0009 will be transported to McFarland Research and Development in Wichita, Kansas to support structural integrity research for the B-52H Aircraft Structural Integrity Program or ASIP.
“This effort will provide great benefits to the B-52 fleet,” said Brig. Gen. John Newberry, the Program Executive Officer for Bombers, and Director of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Bombers Directorate. “This is a wonderful initiative to repurpose a retired B-52 into a tool to advance the fleet’s modernization and sustainment efforts for decades to come.”
Upon arrival in Oklahoma City, the left wing and fuselage will be reattached and used to test how new technology or modifications will integrate with B-52 aircraft. The integration model or mock-up will support a number of current and future modification initiatives, to include the Commercial Engine Replacement Program and Radar Modernization Program.
“There are so many things this [integration model] can be used for,” said Col. Louis Ruscetta, the B-52 Senior Materiel Leader within the Bombers Directorate. “As new weapons are developed and come on hand, we can use it [integration model] to see how the weapons attach, what needs to change, and if they fit on the aircraft. This is an asset that will help us integrate different items onto the aircraft quicker. An additional benefit is the cost to maintain a mock up is fairly low.”
The integration model will not be limited to just weapons. Any technology or capability designed to hang on the wing or attach to the fuselage can be tested, to include pods and antennas. Additionally, the model will open up opportunities for innovation by providing access to industry and other government agencies via Cooperative Research and Development Agreements to test out new ideas and equipment.
While at McFarland Research and Development, the right wing and horizontal stabilizer will be studied in order to learn more about structural limitations and how long the Air Force can expect the parts to last on B-52s currently flying. Most importantly, the research there will provide key structural data on the B-52H, which will guide future decisions about the platform.
World Wide through a General Services Administration contract, will disassemble the aircraft parts and transport them to Oklahoma City and Wichita. The move and set up are expected to be completed this fall.
Currently USAF is fielding two B-52H “Stratofortress” bombers resurrected from the Arizona desert: Ghost Rider, tail number 61-007, the first of the bombers to be brought back to life, returned to service in 2015 after being mothballed for seven years at the 309th AMARG’s National-Level Airpower Reservoir located at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.
Instead B-52 Wise Guy spent 10 years in the desert before being resurrected late last year. In fact, on Dec. 30, 2020, Wise Guy, tail number 60-034, finished the process of regeneration that formally began in 2018 with an in-depth structural analysis and logistics support review completed by the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s B-52 System Program Office to bring the aircraft back to active service. When Wise Guy rejoined the fleet in March, it joined Ghost Rider at the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota, and brought the number of B-52 bombers mandated by Congress to full strength at 76 aircraft.
The B-52 has been through a number of changes over the years to keep up with ever-changing technology. A new radar and new communications gear are just a few updates. There are even plans to replace the eight TF-33 engines with modern versions.
With more than 60 years of service, the B-52 Stratofortress is an icon of global reach and central to the Air Force’s ability to project power anywhere, anytime.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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