This Is How B-52 Bombers Destroyed Mig-21 Fighter Jets In Vietnam War

This Is How B-52 Bombers Destroyed Mig-21 Fighter Jets In Vietnam War
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Although there were some incredible dogfights during the Vietnam War’s air war. It may surprise you to learn that near the end of the war, the mighty B-52 heavy bomber shot down not one, but two Vietnamese Mig 21 fighter jets.

The venerable Boeing B-52 Stratofortress has been flying since 1952 and, thanks to a series of upgrades, will continue to do so for decades to come. Despite the fact that the massive jet bomber was designed in the 1940s (almost entirely in a single weekend), the B-52’s enormous airframe and eight jet engine design have proven so capable over the years that it is now expected to outlast newer bombers developed to replace it. The B-2 Spirit (stealth bomber) and B-1B Lancer (supersonic bomber) of the United States are expected to be retired as the B-21 Raider nears production. The legendary B-52 bomber, on the other hand, continues to fly.

This Is How B-52 Bombers Destroyed Mig-21 Fighter Jets In Vietnam War 1
Photo credits: Senior Airman Joshua Smoot

For so long, the B-52 BUFF (as service members affectionately refer to it) has flown combat missions. It was originally armed with a tail gunner to protect the bomber from invading fighters. As fighter technology advanced, the US naturally shifted away from gunners on large payload bombers and toward flying with their own fighter escorts. While the majority of people associate bomber gun turrets with World War II, the most recent enemy fighter shot down by a B-52’s guns occurred in the 1970s.

This Is How B-52 Bombers Destroyed Mig-21 Fighter Jets In Vietnam War 2
The-tail gun turret of Boeing B-52D Stratofortress (Photo credits: U.S. – Air Force)

It was Christmas Eve 1972, and the Diamond Lil B-52D bomber was on a bombing run over Thai Nguyen when Airman 1st Class Albert Moore, the tail gunner, spotted a Soviet-built Vietnamese Mig-21 closing rapidly on them.

“I observed a target in my radar scope 8:30 o’clock, low at 8 miles,” Moore wrote six days later in a formal statement. “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.”

This Is How B-52 Bombers Destroyed Mig-21 Fighter Jets In Vietnam War 3
A view of the crewman crawling into the tail gunner station of the B-52 Stratofortress from the reclined seat. (Photo credits: U.S. Air Force)

Moore’s must have been a hair-raising experience. During the conflict, only one other B-52 tail gunner scored a successful kill against a Vietnamese fighter, despite the fact that over 30 B-52s were shot down. Indeed, only a few days prior, a B-52 shot down a Mig. In other words, it appeared as though Moore and his crew faced an uphill battle.

“When the target got to 2,000 yards, I notified the crew that I was firing. I fired at the bandit until it ballooned to 3 times in intensity then suddenly disappeared from my radar scope at approximately 1,200 yards, 6:30 low. I expended 800 rounds in 3 bursts.”

Moore’s four.50 caliber M3 Machine Guns fired 800 rounds. Another tail gunner, Tech. Sgt. Clarence Chute confirmed the kill while aboard a nearby B-52 called Ruby 2.

“I went visual and saw the bandit on fire and falling away,” wrote Sergeant Chute. “Several pieces of the aircraft exploded, and the fire-ball disappeared in the undercast at my 6:30 position.”

The Mig-21 flew twice as fast as the B-52 and was equipped with an internal 23mm machine gun and four hardpoints for air to air missiles. (Photo credits: Denis Lovrovic / AFP)

Moore would go down in history as the second B-52 gunner to score a kill against a Mig and as the final bomber-gunner in American service to engage enemy fighters, despite the B-52’s tail guns remaining operational until the 1990s.

Today, the B-52 serves as a critical component of America’s nuclear triad and, believe it or not, as a close air support aircraft operating in uncontested airspace. The B-52’s extended loiter time and massive payload magazine make it an excellent choice for precision strikes against ground targets, which it has carried out in recent years in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Air Force intends to fly the mighty BUFF well beyond the century mark, with some B-52s remaining in service until 2060.



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