Fairchild Air Force Base is hosting a flight of four B-52 bombers this week for a special drill.
The planes, which arrived on Wednesday, are undergoing maintenance and participating in the training exercise before they depart for their home base in Louisiana on Friday.
The Agile Combat Employment exercise is an Air Force-wide initiative to test readiness for deploying on short notice and training at remote locations. In December, elements of the 92nd Air Refueling Wing participated in just such a mission, deploying to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Grant County International Airport in Moses Lake for an ACE exercise.
Fairchild was home to a B-52 wing for over 37 years, with the first plane arriving in 1957. After Fairchild’s Bomb Wing was redesignated as the 92nd Air Refueling Wing, the B-52s were relocated in 1994 to Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota and Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
“Fairchild is unique because we’ve had a bomber station here before,” said Air Force Master Sergeant Anthony Williams. “It was a place where we know we have the ability to land, and we can operate out here effectively.”
Despite being a former home to B-52s, Fairchild is proving to be a new challenge for Barksdale’s airmen.
“This is a shorter runway than we usually land on,” Williams said. “But we’re practicing, we’re exercising, doing things by ourselves, being a standalone sustainable group.”
The B-52, developed in the early 1950s, is one of the two oldest planes still in service, the other being the KC-135.
First Lieutenant and pilot Tanner Devotie pilots multiple planes, some younger than the B-52.
“It’s bigger. It’s a little slower. It keeps you sharp because it’s older,” he said.
Devotie enjoys the challenge of piloting the old model.
“You’re going back in time, but it’s a good airplane,” he said.
The Air Force is working on extending the B-52’s lifespan, with more fuel-efficient engines and the capacity to carry newer weapons.
“It has a lot of room for improvement,” Devotie said. “But by 2050 we’re going to bring it up to the 100-year mark.”
With modern improvements, Williams hopes the B-52 will always have a role in the Air Force.
“It’s our plan to keep going,” Williams said. “The modernization plan goes until 2050, but if they let us, we’ll go until the year 3000.”
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