The U.S. Air Force has returned a B-52 bomber retired eleven years ago to active duty service, only the second time in history that has happened. The bomber, nicknamed “Wise Guy,” was brought out of storage at the aircraft “Boneyard” in Arizona, refurbished, and returned to service at Barksdale, Louisiana. The bomber could easily spend another two or three decades on active duty.
“Wise Guy”, a B-52H bomber, was retired in 2008 and sent to the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis-Monathan Air Force Base in Arizona. The facility, known as “the Boneyard”, is home to over 4,000 military aircraft in various states of storage. The hot, dry air of the southwestern desert prevents stored aircraft from developing rust or other corrosion issues. Some aircraft are stored for quick recall, while others are in pieces and slowly stripped of parts to support active duty planes.
Wise Guy was stored for a relatively quick return to service if needed. The War Zone blog states that the bomber will replace a B-52H that crashed and burned in 2015 at Andersen Air Force Base, on the island of Guam. Bringing the bomber back from Arizona will boost the B-52 fleet back to the desired number of 76 aircraft.
According to a local Baton Rouge, Louisiana news report, the bomber is destined for the 307th Bomb Wing, an Air Force Reserve unit that flies both the B-1B and B-52 bombers.
Not all B-52s are capable of carrying nuclear weapons, but it appears Wise Guy will operate in the nuclear role. The report states that the 307th includes “nuclear certified combat squadrons”, and the B-1B no longer carries nuclear weapons. A recent Federation of American Scientists report says the B-52H no longer carries nuclear gravity bombs but still carries the Air Launched Cruise Missile armed with the W80-1 thermonuclear warhead. The W80-1 has a variable yield of 5 or 150 kilotons’ explosive force.
According to The War Zone the bomber was flown back from Arizona to Louisiana with the same MT tail code that it had when retired in Minot Air Force Base in 2008. The aircraft missed some upgrades in the eleven years it has been out of service and will need to be brought to the latest configuration before going back onto active duty. The bomber also sported some graffiti left behind by the previous crew or maintainers when the giant bomber was retired.