B-52 bombers roared into the sky over Minot Air Force Base this morning.
The giant jets participated in an exercise to prove their ability to respond quickly to a call to duty.
Jim Olson was there as the sun rose to watch the noisy event.
It began as the sun rose behind a deck of clouds over Minot Air Force Base - a row of vehicles delivered the crews to B-52 bombers lined up on the base's main tarmac, setting in motion a high-speed push to get the birds airborne as quickly as possible.
(Capt. Jeff Nagan, MAFB Public Affairs) "This is the culmination of over a week-long activity in which we ensure that our jets are fully capable of responding."
One by one, each bomber's eight engines fired up and were put through their paces to prepare for takeoff, or launch in Air Force terms. Then, slowly, pilots began maneuvering their impressive machines toward the taxiway. A total of 17 B-52s - from both US bases that house the bombers - were part of the exercise.
(Capt. Jeff Nagan, MAFB Public Affairs) "It's a combination of both Minot and Barksdale Air Force Base B-52s, so it's a wide array of personnel from both bases to ensure our mission capability and our readiness."
Helping to coordinate the rapid launch were crew members inside the base's air traffic control tower.
(Airman 1st Class James Terry, MAFB Air Traffic Controller) "We make sure the aircraft get off safely and efficiently and make sure there's no problems getting them from their parking position to essentially airborne."
They watched as the slow-motion ballet took shape. And despite it being a rapid launch, the timing was delayed a bit by construction on the south end of the 13-thousand foot runway. That blocked access via the south taxiway, forcing the jets to roll north, and then taxi down the runway itself for the thundering trip down the runway to the northwest. And as soon as one of the bombers cleared the taxiway entrance, the next jet turned onto the runway to take its turn at blasting off into the sky.
(Airman 1st Class James Terry, MAFB Air Traffic Controller) "There's a lot going on in the tower and we have to make a lot of phone calls to coordinate with a bunch of people so it gets pretty hectic at times but we stay on top of it."
The takeoffs continued - one after another - for an hour until finally, a bomber from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana - identified by the letters LA on the tail as opposed to MT for Minot - completed its launch as the final jet into the air.
(Airman 1st Class James Terry, MAFB Air Traffic Controller) "Everything went real smoothly. We didn't have any problems or mishaps."
A success for the men and women who could be asked to do this for real at any time. At Minot Air Force Base, Jim Olson, KX News.
The B-52s in the nation's arsenal are scheduled to get upgrades to on-board computer systems and internal weapons bays to increase the payload each bomber can carry.