Fifty years ago on Jan. 11, 1962, a crew of eight Airmen embarked on a historic feat that would take them half way across the globe and reaffirm to the world America’s dominance in long-range aircraft strike capabilities.
Piloting the newest model of long-range bombers, the B-52H Stratofortress, crewmembers broke 11 non-stop distance and course-speed records, for its aircraft class and time, when they successfully completed a more than 21 hour non-refueled flight– flying approximately 12,500 miles across the globe. Operation Persian Rug was the name given to the pivotal flight.
The record-breaking journey began at Kadena Air Base, Japan, with the plane and crew were on assignment from Minot AFB’s 4136th Strategic Wing, at the time.
The B-52’s course took the crew across key landmarks around the globe including Tokyo, Japan; Fort Worth, Texas; and Washington, D.C., among others, with a final destination of Torrejon Air Base, Spain.
The previous record for the longest non-refueled flight (class C – Powered Aeroplanes) had been formerly held by an air refueling plane, the KC-135 Stratotanker.
Having been unveiled as the new and improved edition of B-52s, the H model proved its worth by executing the historic mission no later than one year after the first of its kind took to the air.
According to reports at the time, commanding officials at Strategic Air Command, the B-52H’s commanding authority, were eager to demonstrate its new found capabilities.
The H model had been revamped in several different ways from its predecessor the G model.
First off, there was a complete renovation of the aircraft’s engine which provided better fuel efficiency. In combination with newly designed turbofans, it allowed for an increase in flying distance of approximately 2,500 miles, unrefueled. Its defensive armament was also changed to a single rapid fire Gatling gun system which had an adjustable rate of fire between 3,000 and 6,000 rounds per minute.
The aircraft had also been modified to be a missile carrier in anticipation of the Skybolt program, but was later reconfigured subsequent to the cancellation of the program.
General Thomas S. Power, then SAC commander, praised the completion of the flight, stating the more than 12,000-mile flight without refueling demonstrated the intercontinental capabilities of the B-52H Stratofortress.
“The flight proved that SAC aircraft have the capability of reaching target destinations in any area of the globe,” said Power.
President John F. Kennedy also commended the crew for their work in successfully completing the mission. He later invited the crew to Washington, D.C., to personally congratulate them on their accomplishments.
The execution of Operation Persian Rug has been one of several powerful exhibitions the B-52 family has demonstrated to the world. To this day, the B-52H continues to exert its power standing at the forefront of the nuclear deterrence mission under the leadership of Air Force Global Strike Command. Of the original 102 B-52Hs manufactured, approximately 80 are still in active use today.
With this year marking 50 years since the last delivery of the B-52H Stratofortress to Minot AFB and its halt in production, AFGSC has paid homage to the buff by proclaiming 2012 the Year of the B-52.