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1964 Operation Chrome Dome Map from Sheppard Air Force Base, TX

1966 overview of Operation Chrome Dome related or derivative flights

Operation Chrome Dome, initiated in 1960, was one of several United States Air Force Cold-War era airborne global alert duties or programs in which B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber aircraft armed with thermonuclear weapons were assigned targets in the Soviet Union on schedules guaranteeing that a substantial number of them were flying and fueled for their missions at any given time.


During the Cold War, General Thomas S. Power initiated a program whereby B-52s performed airborne alert duty under code names such as Head Start, Chrome Dome, Hard Head, Round Robin,[1] and Operation Giant Lance. Bombers loitered near points outside the Soviet Union to provide rapid first strike or retaliation capability in case of nuclear war.[2][3]

Primary mission

The missions in 1964 involved a B-52D that left Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas and flew across the United States to New England and headed out to the Atlantic Ocean. The aircraft refueled over the Atlantic heading north to and around Newfoundland. The bomber changed course and flew northwesterly over Baffin Bay towards Thule Air Base, Greenland. At this point it flew west across Queen Elizabeth Islands of Canada. Continuing to Alaska, it refueled over the Pacific Ocean again heading south-east and returned to Sheppard AFB.[4]

By 1966, three separate missions were being flown - one East over the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, another north to Baffin Bay, and a third over Alaska.

Military units

The following military units were involved:


B-52 Airborne Nuclear Alert route from Homestead AFB, FL to Italy.

The program was involved in the following nuclear-weapons accidents:

The Thule accident signaled the end of the program on January 22, 1968.


  1. Accident happened while the aircraft was returning to its home base, having already completed its alert mission.


External links

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