Air Force News

B-52s fire missiles at Navy ship during RIMPAC exercise

Released: Jul 27, 1998

by Staff Sgt. Dale Yates
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs

BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La. (AFNS) -- Two B-52s from the 20th Bomb Squadron fired missiles at the Navy's USS Somers July 21 as part of the Rim of the Pacific 1998 exercise.

Each B-52 crew launched one AGM-142 Have Nap missile that struck its target set adrift about 30 miles northwest of the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

According to Capt. Denis Heinz, radar navigator on the lead B-52, the original mission was to sink the USS Somers, a Decatur Class guided missile destroyer. Exercise officials changed the exercise scenario and asked the B-52 crew not to sink the vessel so other aircraft could use it for a target.

Because the Have Nap is guided with a nose-mounted television camera, Heinz and Capt. Max Mitchell, the radar navigator on the second B-52, were able to aim at and strike the bridge instead of the hull as to not sink the vessel, said Heinz.

RIMPAC 98, a six-nation exercise, tests tactical capabilities in maritime operations. It ends Aug. 6. Though maritime operations are not new to the B-52, the use of a Have Nap at sea is new.

"This is the first time the (Have Nap) has been employed over water," said Heinz. "(The Have Nap) is not made to shoot ships. At sea the (AGM-84D) Harpoon is the weapon to use. But, if you have a ship in harbor and you don't want that ship to leave the harbor with its cargo, that's were the Have Nap comes in."

Both Have Nap missiles were armed with a 750-pound warhead originally designed to penetrate concrete structures; but, according to Heinz, this strike gave the Air Force a chance to demonstrate its new naval capability.

"The Navy uses B-52s for a large portion of sea mining because it carries more mines than anything else. And because it carries so many Harpoons, the Navy likes to use the B-52 for that mission as well," said Heinz. "We got the training and practice to shoot the weapon, but we also wanted to show the Navy our capability with this weapon to selectively take out a target.

"The Navy provided the target for us at no cost, and it's an excellent opportunity for crew training. The opportunity to shoot a missile usually comes only once or twice a year. We got to shoot two missiles, so it was a year's worth of training in one day."

This demonstration of airpower comes on the 77th anniversary of 2nd Bomb Wing aircraft sinking the captured German battleship Ostfriesland. Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell used aircraft and crews from the 2nd Bombardment Group to form his 1st Provisional Air Brigade in a test to prove airpower could sink the "unsinkable" battleship.

Lt. Eugene Hoy Barksdale, the base's namesake, was among those crews who flew against the dreadnought during the July 20-21, 1921, trials. (Courtesy of Air Combat Command News Service)


* B-52 Stratofortress
* Air Combat Command
* Barksdale Air Force Base, La.
* U.S. Navy