Barksdale Air Force base’s 2nd Bomb Wing in Louisiana conducted an ‘Elephant Walk’ as part of exercises designed to ensure combat readiness. The show of force on Oct. 14, 2020, saw just under a dozen B-52 bombers lining the Barksdale Air Force Base’s runway.
The phrase “Elephant Walk” dates back to World War II, when the Army Air Forces would routinely deploy dozens of aircraft simultaneously. Its name comes from a resemblance to elephants marching towards a watering hole in single file formation.
After launching from Barksdale, the flight of eight landed in North Dakota at Minot Air Force Base, home to a sister wing of Stratofortress bombers.
These exercises are designed to examine and maintain readiness of crews and equipment, as well as their rapid launch ability. As part of a simulated B-52 combat launch, a technique called ‘Cart-Start’ is used to expedite aircraft mobilization.
Under normal conditions a B-52 takes up to an hour to start all eight of its engines and requires ground equipment to be alongside the aircraft. Using the ‘Cart-Start’ method, two small controlled explosives are used to effectively jumpstart two of the aircraft engines, the remaining engines are ignited during taxi. This reduces launch time to around 10 minutes.
B-52’s are equipped with the AGM-86B, an air-launched cruise missile also referred to as an ALCM. With more than 70,000lbs of weapons payload capacity, the Stratofortress, at full loadout can carry up to 20 AGM-86B nuclear cruise missiles with operational ranges at 1500+ miles.
Currently, the United States Air Force still has 76 B-52 Stratofortress aircraft in service. This design dates back to the 1950’s -a capable aircraft with a combat range greater than 8,800 nautical miles.
Each of its eight Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines produces 17,000lbs of thrust designed to lift the Stratofortress maximum takeoff weight of 488,000lbs.
The B-52 has a wingspan of 185ft and can reach a subsonic speed of 650mph while achieving a maximum altitude of 50,000ft.
Even with the aging design, the B-52 remains a staple for nuclear defense.
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