Siberia Overflight
RB-47 airborne On 15 Oct 52 two specially modified B-47Bs, accompanied by two KC-97 tankers, took off from Eielson AFB in Alaska and turned towards the Russia border. The lead plane was piloted by Col Donald E Hillman, the Deputy Wing Commander from MacDill AFB Florida with Maj Lester E Gunter as co-pilot and Maj Edward A Timmins as Navigator. The back-up plane was flown by Col Patrick D Fleming with Maj Lloyd F Fields as co-pilot and Maj William J Reilly as Navigator.

Their mission, which had direct Presidential approval, was to photograph a number of Soviet air bases deep in Siberia to determine what aircraft they were operating. After refuelling from KC-97 tankers of Point Barrow, Alaska, the B-47ís headed towards Siberia. The back-up aircraft flown by Fleming photographed and mapped Wrangel Island, about 100 miles from the Siberian coast, then orbited over the Chukchi Sea to act as a radio relay. The aircraft eventually landed safely back at Eielson.

Siberian Overflight

Meanwhile Hillman and his crew flew past Wrangel Island and, maintaining radio silence, turned southwest towards the Soviet coast. Crossing the Soviet coast to the west of Ambarchik, the B-47B turned south into the heart of Siberia with itís cameras photographing a variety of targets. After a while the aircraft turned south east and, as fuel burned off, climbed to over 40,000 ft whilst cruising at around 480 kts.

The aircraftís warning receivers eventually notified them that they were being tracked by Soviet radar and gradually a number of MiGs were sighted climbing towards them on an intercept course but they had left it too late and failed to catch the B-47B. Continuing southeast, the B-47B passed over Egvekinot and Provideniya before turning northeast to exit Soviet territory near the Chukotskiy Peninsula. Hillman returned direct to Eielson and landed after spending nearly 8 hours airborne. He and his crew had made a 3500 mile flight and overflown nearly 1,000 miles of Soviet territory.