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Tough as Lightning

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force story by Airman 1st Class Michael Murphy
  • 36 Wing Public Affairs

Capt. Jacob Stawski, now 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron electronic warfare officer, said he would never forget his first flight.

His mind was brewing over what to expect. He was flying over Dallas on his way back to Louisiana, adjusting channels of volume to regulate at his station aboard the B-52 Stratofortress, to amend the deafening roar of the aircraft’s eight engines.

“I sit backwards from the pilot and copilot,” Stawski said. “All of a sudden I see this huge flash, and it’s super loud,” Stawski said. “I hear a BOOM and my feet rattled. The pilot comes over the radio saying we’ve been struck by lightning.”

Stawski said the aircraft was still good to fly and the aircrew continued their course and landed. They found that the B-52 had caught fire upon landing, and that a six-foot hole was in the tail of the aircraft. Emergency personnel responded and extinguished the threat of fire.The B-52 was ultimately repaired and returned to flight.

Thankfully, Stawski was in one of the oldest and most reliable aircraft in the U.S. Air Force fleet.

The B-52’s on Andersen Air Force Base come from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, and are fulfilling a six month deployment on Andersen to complete the Continuous Bomber Presence Mission.

“The biggest thing is providing assurance to our allies through our presence within the INDOPACOM area of responsibility,” He said. “If you take a look at CBP, that’s the root of what we are doing. We are providing assurance that we are here. We are looking out.”

Andersen has maintained a rotational strategic bomber presence on base since March 2004. These aircraft, and the men and women who fly and support them, provide a significant capability that enables our readiness and commitment to deterrence, provides assurances to our allies, and strengthens regional security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

“The 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron ‘Knighthawks’ fulfill our role in the CBP by using nuclear-capable B-52s to demonstrate our ability to project lethal global strike at the time and place of our choosing,” said Lt. Col. Dennis Zabka, 69th EBS commander. “We continue to strengthen alliances and long-standing military–to-military partnerships while illustrating U.S. commitment to stability and security in the Indo-Pacific region.”

B-52’s are one of three platforms that rotate into Andersen, along with the B-1 Lancer and the B-2 Spirit.

The B-52 is a long-range bomber able to execute strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction, offensive counter-air and maritime operations, and can occasionally be struck by lightning and continue its mission.

“It’s a great aircraft,” said Stawski. “The B-52 is a very reliable platform. It’s a beast.”