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B-52 Loses Engine While Flying Over North Dakota

A B-52H Stratofortress flies at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 13, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kristoffer Kaubisch)
A B-52H Stratofortress flies at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Aug. 13, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo/Kristoffer Kaubisch)

An engine fell from a B-52 Stratofortress bomber Wednesday while the aircraft was flying over North Dakota, according to the U.S. Air Force.

The incident occurred during a training flight near Minot Air Force Base, officials confirmed to Military.com. The engine broke up and debris landed in unpopulated area, they said. No injuries were reported.

"Earlier today, a B-52 dropped an engine while in flight," a spokesperson said in an email. "The aircraft landed safely with no injuries."

The five personnel on board the Cold War-era heavy bomber landed back at the base, another official said. Crews dispatched a UH-1N Huey helicopter to recover what was left of the engine, according to a base spokesman who spoke with Defense News.

Temperatures in North Dakota are frigid this time of year and were recorded at 12 degrees below zero in parts of the state on Wednesday.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James was apparently visiting the base at the time of the incident. She was scheduled to meet with service leaders on Wednesday and airmen on Thursday, local Fox News affiliate KMOT reported.

Col. Matthew Brooks, commander of the 5th Bomb Wing, part of Air Force Global Strike Command's Eighth Air Force, created a safety investigation board to determine what caused the mishap, according to the second official who emailed Military.com.

The bomber runs via eight Pratt & Whitney-made TF33-P-3/103 turbofan engines. The Air Force has 76 of the aircraft in its inventory.

The planes are among the oldest in the fleet. Three generations of airmen have flown the B-52 in combat, from Vietnam to Afghanistan, and the newest B-52 is more than a half-century old.

Yet the Stratofortress continues to play a critical role in various theaters around the world. Recently, three U.S. Air Force B-52Hs returned from the Pacific, conducting flights near Australia and the contested South China Sea.

In May, a B-52 from Minot crashed on Guam's Andersen Air Force Base flight line. The bomber, part of a contingent, was on a routine deployment also conducting a training mission as part of the Air Force's continuous bomber presence in the region. The crew was able to evacuate the aircraft safely.

B-52s from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, are currently deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to conduct air operations against the Islamic State.

A coveted aircraft during the operation, the B-52 has the ability to stay airborne for a longer duration, have capable sensors to identify targets, and carry a wide-variety of bombs "attacking everything from vehicles to large-site targets," according to Col. Daniel Manning, the deputy director of the Combined Air Operations Center.

"Frankly, we want our partners and the enemy to see the airpower [the B-52] has overhead," Manning told Military.com in November. "A B-52 encourages our partner force that we have their back. Being seen is actually a pretty good thing."

In April, several B-52s arrived at Al Udeid to join the American-led campaign in place of the B-1B Lancer.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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