So there’s an email floating around the Intertubes that purports to show a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress being transported on an aircraft carrier. The image is accompanied by the following text:
While this may look like a gag shot, it is actually a "transport of a transport" necessity. The B-52 was in Beirut, Lebanon undergoing routine fuel tank cleaning. Workmen accidentally damaged the bladder system and had to install the bladders from smaller C-130s temporarily. The plane was flown to nearby McCollough air base where it was lifted upon a barge bound for Tyre on the Mediterranean. Once there it was off-loaded onto the carrier deck for transport to Crete where the appropriate tank bladders were installed. It was then flown back to Beirut. Military cooperation in action.
Even before seeing the picture, I was skeptical – and not just because it came from the Internet (over and over and over.) There’s a lot wrong in just the text – the US has no military bases in Lebanon (in Beirut or Tyre), there is no McCollough air base as far as I can tell, I highly doubt that anyone could or would install C-130 fuel tank bladders in a B-52, etc.
An inspection of the picture yields even more evidence: the shadows are incorrect – the B-52 is lit from the upper right, while the rest of the scene is lit from a point closer to center or lower right. Then there’s the height problem – there’s no way that the (mysteriously unshadowed) F-14 would fit under the right wingtip of the B-52, nor would the F-18 fit under the nose like that, not to mention the EA-6B and the S-3 just outboard of the #4 engine. This led to the single biggest giveaway which was one of scale: according to some organization that refers to itself as the United States Navy, the width of CVN-68, the USS Nimitz, is 252 feet. As anyone (and by anyone I mean my brother Chris, who is a bubbling cauldron of B-52 trivia, among other things) will tell you, the wingspan of a B-52H is 185 feet, which means that, as pictured, the airplane is roughly 36% too big (or the ship is the same percentage too small.)
Oh, and finding the original, undoctored photo didn’t hurt either.