The smallest and shortest lived of the four B-52G equipped provisional bomb wings was the 806th BW(P) at RAF Fairford. Hastily created when it became clear that France would allow British based ‘Buffs’ to overfly its territory, the unit was formed around a cadre provided by the 97th BW from Eaker AFB, and was commanded by the 97th’s boss Col George I Conlan.
Aircraft and aircrew for the Fairford detachment were drawn from the 524th BS/379th BW at Wurtsmith AFB, the 668th BS/416th BW at Griffiss AFB, the 62nd BS/2nd BW at Barksdale AFB and the 328th BS/93rd BW at Castle AFB. The first B-52G for the new wing arrived at Fairford on 5 February – the day the new unit was designated the 806th BW(P).
The wing had eight Primary Aircraft Authorised, although once again the official figures did not add up, detailing one jet from the 2nd BW, one from the 93rd, six from the 379th and two from the 416th. Ten B-52s actually deployed to Fairford (not simultaneously), two from the 2nd BW, six from the 379th and two from the 416th. All the Fairford aircraft were intended to be ‘777’ jets (JCSMS conventional aircraft), although in the event all were Cruise Missile Integrated.
Some 2000 tons of munitions arrived at Fairford from 6 February, 1158 tons of which would eventually be expended. The wing dropped 3008 of the 72,289 weapons expended by B-52Gs, comprising 2193 M117s, 560 MK82s, and 255 CBU-71/87/89s.
The wing became operational on 8 February. The first mission, using the call-sign ‘Luxor’, was launched the very next day, with three and four ship formations (with initially an extra ‘air spare’) being dispatched daily until 27 February, except on 16 February and 26 February when the missions were ‘scrubbed’. On 22 February the 806th BW(P)’s mission was launched from Jeddah, where the wing’s four ship cell of aircraft had diverted the day before.
Generally speaking, the missions proved straightforward and the B-52s serviceability was exemplary. The mission turn around time pre-war had generally hovered around the 5.5 hour mark, but 90 minute turnarounds became routine at Fairford during the war. When the avrage sortie time was 16.3 hours, rapid turnarounds were essential.
There were however a handful of incidents. On 17 February for example 58-0204 ‘Special Delivery’ operating as ‘Placid 73’ suffered major hydraulic problems en route to the target. The captain was forced to jettison his bomb load into the Mediterranean, before diverting to Palermo. The aircraft returned to Fairford on 19 February. Despite unusually severe weather, which occasionally sprinkled Fairford with snow, there were relatively few weather diversions. Single aircraft diverted to Mildenhall (58-0231 High Roller on 18 February) and Jeddah (59-2579 on 27 February) and all four aircraft of ‘Jenny’ flight diverted to St Mawgan on 24 February. The wings designated weather / refueling diversions at Istres Le Tube and Malpensa (Milan) were not used ‘in anger’.
The B-52Gs of the ‘Royal Gloucestershire Air Force’ left Fairford between 1 and 9 March, having flown 62 sorties totaling 927.4 combat flying hours (some sources suggest that the hours total was rather higher, at 975.7 hours).
The Stratofortresses stationed furthest from their targets tied up a disproportionate number of of the USAF’s tankers and the 806th’s B-52Gs used aircraft from the 807th AREFS(P) at Mont de Marsan and the 803rd AREFS(P) at Athens-Hellenikon.
Two aircraft were acquired from Moron one being 80168, temporarily swapped for 80182 and 92579 (379BW marks) which covered for 80231’s one weeks absence at Barksdale AFB
Aircraft’s involved – 80168, 80237, 92579, 92589, 76498, 80204, 80245, 80247, 80231
Support was provided from 42 Munitions Maintenance Squadron MMS from Loring AFB Maine