On Oct. 14, 2020, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, hosted a readiness exercise the 2nd BW conducted to validate its ability to launch a significant number of B-52H Stratofortress bombers at very short notice.
The images released by the U.S. Air Force through the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service show eight strategic bombers lined up on the runway at their base, preparing for take off.
Not many details about the exercise have been released by the Air Force, even though it looks like the B-52s used the radio callsign “SHUSH” and after their mission they landed at Minot AFB, North Dakota, home of another Stratofortress unit, the 5th Bomb Wing (that took part in an Elephant Walk at Andersen AFB on Guam last April with 5x BUFFs)
📸 Earlier today, Barksdale AFB conducted an elephant walk & launch of B-52H bombers as part of an ongoing readiness exercise. The bombers flew to Minot AFB, North Dakota with callsigns SHUSH09-15. pic.twitter.com/4jABOwj3mK
— Aircraft Spots (@AircraftSpots) October 15, 2020
While still quite impressive, compared to other mass launches in the near past, this latest one was somewhat small. In June 2012, 17x B-52s launched during Constant Vigilance exercise held at Minot Air Force Base. In June 2009, Minot hosted a 15-ship MITO (Minimum Interval Take Off) in support of Exercise Global Thunder.
Noteworthy, during training events that require a rapid launch of the B-52, aircraft are started up by a method known “cart-starts” from cartridge starts: a small-controlled explosive is inserted into two of the eight engines of the heavy bomber. The charges jumpstart the engines (the remaining engines are started while the aircraft taxies to the runway) removing the need to use ground equipment normally used for aircraft’s startup.
Using cart-starts, startup time is cut from more than an hour to less than 10 minutes.