BAFB celebrates 20th anniversary of record-setting flight

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(courtesy photo)

Story by Airman 1st Class Joseph Raatz, Air Force Global Strike Command Public Affairs

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE — You may remember what you had for breakfast yesterday, but what about lunch 20 years ago? Warren Ward, a captain and aircraft commander at the time, remembers.

“I had a reputation for smoking meat, so I provided the crew a 10 pound brisket for an inflight culinary experience,” Ward, deputy chief of Programming Division at Air Force Global Strike Command, said. “Our radar navigator Steve Pomeroy, who had some ties to Italy, cooked a very large lasagna. We brought some pretty good eats.”

The crew of the Lucky Lady IV, a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber, brought their ‘good eats’ with them on a record-setting mission. In the early morning of August 1, 1994, the Lucky Lady IV and the Laissez le Bon Temps Roulez lifted off from Barksdale and embarked on a 47-hour nonstop flight around the world, becoming the first aircraft to drop bombs in conjunction with circumnavigating the globe.

The mission, codenamed Exercise Global Power 94-7, was to fly to Kuwait to participate in a firepower demonstration that would mark the fourth anniversary of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

“When you look at flying from Barksdale to Kuwait and back, having done that during Desert Storm, that’s about 35 hours,” Ward said. “And somebody, probably a mission planner in the 2nd Operations Support Squadron, looked at the proposal and said ‘You know, if you just kept going east and flew about another 12 hours you’d fly all the way around the world.’ Well, another 12 hours is nothing when you’re already doing 35!”

When Ward learned his crew would be participating in the history-making mission, he was ecstatic.

“It felt like being a kid on Christmas morning,” Ward said.

Around 17 hours into the flight, the two B-52s – under command of Brig. Gen. Peyton Cole – arrived over the Udairi Bomb Range in Kuwait and dropped to 800 feet for a low altitude bombing run. In turn, each aircraft released 27 Mk82 500lb bombs, totaling more than 13 tons of high explosives, within less than 50 feet of the target. The drop was a mere three seconds off of the time designated in the mission plan, an impressive feat after flying halfway around the world.

This level of accuracy is not uncommon in the bomber world however, Ward explained.

“That’s what the crews train to,” Ward said. “Bomber crews have trained to that level of expertise for years. It’s a point of pride for the Air Force in general, and certainly bomber crews specifically, since World War II – on time, on target.”

Global Power 94-7’s flight path took the crews over three oceans and more than a dozen countries. The 20,000 mile flight required five in-air refuelings, accomplished by KC-10 Extenders and KC-135 Stratotankers based all over the world.

A complicated flight plan can encounter a few hiccups during execution, and Global Power 94-7 was no exception. The two crews had to deal with a variety of issues, such as when a Spanish air traffic controller informed them that their trans-Mediterranean flight plan had been lost and having throttle issues with one of the eight engines on the lead aircraft, as well as having to make impromptu changes to the flight path to avoid a typhoon near the Philippines.

“It was definitely interesting,” Ward said. “We had to be ready for anything.”

Nearing the end of their journey, and after having slept in their chairs or in temporarily strung up hammocks, the crews were excited to land.

“Coming back, as we crossed the Oklahoma City area, one of our guys who had secured a recording of Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries started playing it over the inter-plane frequency and played it all the way home,” Ward said.

Upon landing, the crews of the Lucky Lady IV and the Laissez le Bon Temps Roulez were informed that their 47.2-hour around-the-world flight had secured them a place in the history books as the longest nonstop flight by a B-52 in history. The crews also celebrated it as Cole’s final flight and a fitting career wrap-up for a truly great warrior-leader, Ward said.

“To fly around the world like that, I think it’s a pretty significant event,” Ward said. “And I think it dovetails perfectly into Global Strike Command’s mission today, because you don’t have to drop bombs on someone to deter them. It’s just being able to show you have that capability and the will to do so.

“We saw it last year, with B-2s and B-52s flying over Korea,” Ward said. “You can call it saber-rattling or whatever you want, but the United States is the only nation in the world that can really reach out and touch somebody literally within a day, if need be. We did it then, and we can do it today.”