The war in Vietnam was not just on the ground. The skies saw plenty of fighting too. Dog fights were fairly common, but there were still some surprising battles, like the one between a B-52 bomber and two Vietnamese Mig21 fighter jets.
The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress was designed on a weekend in the 1940s and began flying in 1952. The trusty plane received many updates to keep it in service for many decades.
Originally, it came with a tail gunner to combat approaching fighters. However, the U.S. moved to payload bombers and away from the tail gunner model.
A 1970s model B-52 just so happens to be the most recent bomber to shoot down an enemy plane. In 1972, on Christmas eve, a B-52D called the Diamond Lil flew a bombing run over Thai Nguyen.
Engaging The Enemy
As it was flying, the tail gunner saw a Soviet-made Vietnamese Mig-21 coming in quickly. Airmen 1st Class Albert Moore knew they had to do something about it.
In his statement, Moore wrote, "I observed a target in my radar scope 8:30 o'clock, low at 8 miles."
“I immediately notified the crew, and the bogie started closing rapidly. It stabilized at 4,000 yards 6:30 o’clock. I called the pilot for evasive action and the EWO (electronic warfare officer) for chaff and flares.”Albert Moore
Before this, there was only one B-52 tail gunner who had shot down a Mig, and it happened just a few days before this. So for Moore, the odd were not looking very good.
However, he shot 800 rounds out of his four .50 caliber M3 Machine guns in three bursts. A B-52, Ruby 2, confirmed that he had, in fact, shot down the Mig.
Moore earned the distinction of the second gunner to shoot down a Mig, but he was also the last ever to fight enemy planes, even though the tail guns were still on B-52s in the 1990s.
It has worked well for ground strikes in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Since it has had some updates, the B-52 is expected to stay a part of the Air Force until at least 2060.