In Harms Way

This is an illustration of aircraft B-52G 0248. It’s too small to see, but the nose art shows that this aircraft had the nickname of “In Harms Way”. There is a story that goes along with the nickname. Then again, don’t most nicknames have a story?

This is the B-52G that was accidentally hit with an AGM-88 HARM anti-radiation missile fired from an F-4G Wild Weasel on the first night of operation DESERT STORM. The B-52’s tail gunner mistakenly locked his anti-aircraft radar on the Wild Weasel thinking it was an Iraqi MIG. The Wild Weasel immediately detected the B-52 tail gun radar locking on to him and misidentified the radar signature as that of an Iraqi anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) site. The Wild Weasel crew fired a HARM missile and watched in horror as it headed not towards the nonexistent Iraqi AAA site, but to the B-52 is was tasked with protecting.

Luckily the missile failed to hit the plane but instead detonated directly behind the bomber. These missiles are designed to hit non-moving ground targets, not moving airplanes. The resulting shrapnel and missile debris caused an excessive amount of damage to the tail section of the B-52. It ripped off everything aft of the vertical stabilizer. This included much of the tail gun system, the aft electronic warfare suite, and the drag chute. The B-52 was able to land safely on the island of Diego Garcia in Saudi Arabia.

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I don’t know who took this awful photo of aircraft 0248, but it wasn’t me. I’m the guy on the far right.

It was then sent to Anderson Air Force Base on Guam for repair. I was in on the repair of this aircraft shortly after is was damaged. During the first Iraqi war, I was assigned to a squadron that was responsible for repairing B-52’s being used in Iraq and being flown from Diego Garcia. I spent four months back on Guam. I had been stationed there prior for almost three years. I could have been sent to places far worse than Guam. I could have gone to Saudi. I could have spent four months on Diego Garcia. I spent two weeks there once and that was long enough for me. As it was, I loved Guam.

Update

Bob Deasy, the Radar Nav on board this aircraft the night it took a missile was kind enough to stop by and correct me on some of the things I got wrong about this story. His corrections can be found in the comment section. The main issue I got wrong was that the B-52 gunner locked onto the Wild Weasel with his radar.

He did not do that.