BATTLE CREEK, Mich. –
Nearly seven years ago, a B-52H Stratofortress loaded with inert munitions for a normal training flight attempted take-off from Andersen Air Force Base in Guam.
As the plane barreled down the runway, its pilot heard thuds, saw birds at wing level and then observed three of four engines losing thrust, according to a military investigation completed the following year. As the pilot applied brakes, the co-pilot attempted to deploy a chute – which did not work properly – and the behemoth skidded about 300 feet off the end of the runway, losing its landing gear and catching fire in the process.
Luckily, the entire crew escaped from an emergency hatch with only minor injuries, but the $112 million aircraft was a complete loss.
In the years since, the island territory’s fast-advancing jungle vegetation has tried to claim the bomber, growing in and around the remaining wreckage. Andersen AFB officials and the Air Force’s 36th Munition Squadron recently turned to the local property disposal professionals at Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services to arrange for demilitarization and scrapping of the Stratofortress remains.
Former Army logistics specialist Mezekiel Sims serves as DLA’s area manager for property and hazardous waste disposal and reuse efforts in and around Guam. Sims said he visited the wreckage site in December along with Disposal Support Representative Jay Nowell and local scrap contract personnel.
“We’re looking at doing demilitarization on site,” said Sims, noting that the team is aiming to complete the estimated week-long job in April. “It will require an [on-site] excavator to be able to crush it into pieces and place them into bins.”
DLA Disposition Services field sites are regularly called upon by the services for their expertise in demilitarizing vehicles and equipment made inoperable due to battle damage or mishaps. The command can quickly and efficiently contract with local support firms across the globe to turn military armor and technology into harmless scrap while protecting the environment and U.S. warfighters. The money earned from scrap sales helps lower the costs the armed services pay for property and hazardous material removal.
Recent and ongoing DLA demilitarization projects in the Indo-Pacific area of operations include the destruction of F-15 fighter jets in Okinawa, Landing Craft Air Cushions [LCACs] in Yokosuka, and armored vehicles in Gimcheon, Korea. The Guam property disposal team previously won DOD accolades for its efficient scrapping of USS Guardian after the wood-hulled Navy minesweeper ran aground on a Philippines reef in 2013.