Retired B-52H completes epic road trip

A retired US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress has completed a 19-day, 1,407-mile journey by road from Arizona to Oklahoma. The fuselage of the aircraft, 61-0009 ‘Damage Inc II,’ had departed from the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona, early on the morning of January 4. It arrived at its destination, the Boeing facility in Oklahoma City, near Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, on January 22.

B-52 Road trip
The fuselage of B-52H 61-0009 ‘Damage Inc II’ passes through Norman, Oklahoma, as it nears its final destination in Oklahoma City on January 22 with the crew in the cockpit showing a sense of humour by wearing alien masks on the last leg of their long cross-country road trip from Arizona USAF Mark Hybers

It will now be reassembled at the facility with just its left wing. The aircraft will then serve as a static integration model to test how well new technologies and current and future modifications will integrate with B-52 aircraft.

After retirement from service, 61-0009 had been placed in storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG) at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, on September 25, 2008. After languishing in desert storage for many years, on May 20, 2021, the US Air Force Life Cycle Management Center announced that it was to be used to support research and modernization efforts on the B-52 fleet. Last spring it was removed from AMARG storage and towed the short distance to the adjacent Pima Air and Space Museum, where its wings, fuselage and horizontal stabilizer were removed in preparation for road transport.

The right wing and horizontal stabilizer have been transported to McFarland Research and Development in Wichita, Kansas, to support structural integrity research for the B-52H Aircraft Structural Integrity Program. The fuselage and left wing were moved to Oklahoma. According to Bill Pogorzelski, the project lead for the mock-up effort, the USAF funded the aircraft regeneration and transportation, while Boeing will provide the infrastructure to house the mock-up to allow for development and testing activities.

Col Louis Ruscetta, the B-52 senior materiel leader with the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s Bomber Directorate, said: “We appreciate Boeing’s partnership to revive ‘Damage Inc II’ in support of the B-52 modernization effort. This is a great opportunity to reduce risk to the some of our development efforts and opens doors to bring other innovative capabilities to the fleet and keep this platform flying into 2050. As new technologies develop, we can use this mock-up to help speed integration and get capability to the field faster.”

The USAF B-52 fleet is undergoing the biggest modernization effort in its history. In addition to new Rolls-Royce F-130 engines to replace the ageing Pratt & Whitney TF-33s under the Commercial Engine Replacement Program, the B-52 is also upgrading its 1960’s core radar to a new Active Electronically Scanned Array system similar to those found in modern fighter aircraft. It has also just completed a major communications upgrade and will soon get a new Tactical Data Link capability.

‘Damage Inc II’ is the third B-52H to ‘escape’ from AMARG for a new life. In the last few years, two others, 60-0034 Wise Guy’ and 61-0007 ‘Ghost Rider,’ were both restored to airworthiness after years in storage and have re-joined the active USAF fleet.