US Air Force B-52 bomber 'sends distress signal' after mid-air emergency over Gloucestershire

A US Air Force B-52 bomber has sent a distress signal after a mid-air emergency over Gloucestershire, it was reported.

According to tracking website FlightRadar 24, the aircraft transmitted a “squawk code 770, indicating general emergency, near Tewkesbury, UK”.

Two of the giant planes were spotted in the skies above the county today, Gloucestershire Live reports.

The planes flew over central Gloucester, towards Hartpury, Ashleworth and Tewkesbury, before coming back round over Up Hatherley, Shurdington, Brockworth Hucclecote and Barnwood.

Two of the aircraft were Boeing B-52 Stratofortress, with the identities BALOO51 and BALOO52 and both were flying at an altitude of over 9,000 feet.

Currently, there are six US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers based at RAF Fairford, in the Cotswolds.

The B-52 – capable of carrying 20 nuclear cruise missiles – has been on the front line of America's defence arsenal since the mid-50s.

So iconic were the B-52s that they became synonymous with the Cold War – being deployed in conflicts from Vietnam to the Gulf War and Afghanistan.

Recently they were used to wipe out ISIS fighters in Iraq.

The B-52 Stratofortress in numbers

  • Maiden flight – 1955
  • Cost – £95million
  • Number in service – 76 (18 in reserve)
  • Where are they based? – Barksdale AFB, Louisiana and Minot AFB, North Dakota
  • Size – Wingspan: 56m, Length: 49m
  • Top speed: 650mph
  • Altitude – 50,000 ft
  • Payload – up to 30 tonnes of bombs and mines
  • Missile arsenal: AGM-84 Harpoon missiles, AGM-142 Raptor missiles and AGM-86C air-launched nuclear cruise missiles
  • Range – 8,000 miles
  • Defensive arsenal –  Remote-controlled rear M61 Vulcan cannon

They even went on to become to inspiration for an American rock band of the same name.

Much of the interest in the B-52s stems from their devastating payload – which was seen up close when several of the bombers were deployed to RAF Fairford, Gloucs, earlier in 2017.

The nuclear-capable fleet can each deliver 30 tons worth of bombs, missiles and mines – all the while being protected by remote-control cannon on its tail.

The jewel in the crown of the £95million B-52s are its nuke-carrying AGM-86C cruise missiles.

Each can pack a punch ten times more powerful than the nuclear bomb that devastated Hiroshima in 1945.

And while moving at a relatively sluggish 650mph, the behemoths are difficult to knock out of the sky owing to their 50,000 operating ceiling.

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