Project HomerunDuring the seven-week period from 21 March to 10 May 1956 a combination of RB-47E and RB-47H aircraft flew almost daily across the North Pole to investigate activity on Russia’s northern border an USAF exercise known as Project Homerun.
President Eisenhower personally approved a USAF project to map, both photographically and electronically, the northern border of Russia - a vast area that was virtually unknown territory. A special SAC detachment was formed for this operation comprising sixteen RB-47E photo-reconnaissance aircraft from the 10th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, five RB-47H electronic reconnaissance aircraft from the 343rd Strategic Reconnaissance Wing and twenty eight KC-97 tankers from a variety of squadrons. All these aircraft were based at Thule in Greenland, some 690 miles north of the Arctic Circle, where operations were often conducted of 35 degress below zero.
The intelligence planners had divided the northern coast of Russia into 3 areas. The first was from the Kola Peninsula to Dikson on the Kara Sea, the second was from Dikson to Tiksi on the Laptev Sea and the third from Tiski to the Bering Strait. The aircraft normally flew as a formation, comprising an RB-47E and an RB-47H, each with a dedicated tanker. About 4 or 5 missions were flown each day, rotating aircraft and crews all sorties were flown in daylight. On only 3 or 4 occasions did Russian aircraft attempt to intercept the overflying RB-47’s - all were unsuccessful.
As the operation drew down it was decided to conduct a massed overflight. On 6-7 May 56 six RB-47E’s entered Siberia near Ambarchik, heading south in line abreast. The aircraft eventually turned east and photo-mapped the entire eastern portion of Siberia before exiting Russia over the Bering Strait near Anadyr before finally landing at Eielson AFB in Alaska.
Altogether 156 missions were flown from Thule in Project Homerun and not a single aircraft was lost a tremendous demonstration of skill and bravery by all the crews involved.