Bombers drop final Vietnam-era warheads, complete 50-year tradition

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Curt Beach
  • 2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Barksdale Airmen deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, wrote the final chapter to a story that began over 50 years ago by dropping Pacific Air Forces' last M117 bombs on Farallon de Medinilla, a small uninhabited island north of Guam, June 26.

The mission, dubbed "Last Blast," involved two Barksdale B-52H Stratofortresses known as RAIDR 51, which carried the last six M117s from Andersen's stockpile, and RAIDR 52, which carried simulated weapons.

"It's an honor to be part of the crew that was chosen to drop the final M117, a bomb that has played a critical role in the training of B-52 aircrew for over five decades," said Capt. Jason McCulley, 20th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron RAIDR 51 aircraft commander.

The M117, a 750-pound unguided gravity weapon, was used heavily in the Vietnam War. When the conflict ended, thousands of unused bombs remained and were put into inventory at Andersen. Since that time, Barksdale and Andersen Airmen have been loading and dropping these live weapons to gain valuable training.

"Dropping weapons on a regular basis is great for training aircrews, but it also messages the critical part of deterrence, which is credibility," said Lt. Col. Wade Karren, 20th EBS director of operations. "Building aircrew confidence by using live weapons is a critical part of training our aircrew for combat scenarios."

The M117 was used in combat during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Additionally, the M117 has played a major role throughout U.S. Pacific Command's Continuous Bomber Presence, a continuous rotation of U.S. Air Force bombers deploying to the Indo-Asia Pacific region to provide flexible response capability, which has been ongoing since March 2004.

"It feels good to accomplish a long-term task that has been taking place as long as the B-52 has been around," said Karren. "It is a testament to the leadership, hard work and dedication of the men and women of Andersen and Barksdale to stay the course and get the very best training out of these weapons." 

Though the historic run of Andersen's M117s has come to a close, no shortage of new weapons stand at the ready to take its place.

As B-52 can carry the largest variety of weapons of any aircraft in the Air Force's fleet, deterrence of our enemies and assurance of our allies and the Continuous Bomber Presence will move forward.