How B-52 Stratofortress nuclear bombers lost their M61A1 Vulcan tail gun because of friendly fire during Operation Desert Storm
The B-52 Stratofortress is one of the oldest aircraft in US service and one of only two strategic bombers that can carry nuclear weapons. It made its first flight in 1952. Today's B-52s are very different from those that took to the skies 70 years ago.
During this time, American specialists have learned several important lessons. One of them was during the Gulf War. The B-52 Stratofortress lost its defensive armament, which had been installed in the tail turret, due to a not entirely pleasant situation.
Officially, the US Air Force said the reason was to save money, but the savings were just a nice bonus. In fact, the cannon had to be abandoned because of friendly fire. The incident took place in early 1991, during Operation Desert Storm.
The B-52 bombers were striking ground targets and Scud missile sites. In all, by the way, they made over 1,700 sorties during the war and dropped about 30 percent of all ammunition. The M61A1 Vulcan gun was installed on the aircraft. It was used for defensive purposes in conjunction with the AN/ASG fire control system, which included radar.
It was because of the AN/ASG that one of the bombers came under friendly fire. The B-52 gunner reported it was being tracked by an Iraqi fighter. However, it turned out to be an American F-4G Wild Weasel, which fired an AGM-88 High-speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) at the Stratofortress. It was later revealed that the F-4G Wild Weasel pilot mistook the AN/ASG for an Iraqi air defence system.
The F-4G Wild Weasel eventually managed to evade fire from the B-52 Stratofortress, and the AGM-88 HARM anti-radar missile completely blew apart the bomber's aft fuselage. The B-52 was able to land in Saudi Arabia. Transiting through Diego Garcia, the damaged aircraft was taken to an airbase on the island of Guam. There it was nicknamed In HARM's Way and was no longer involved in the Gulf War.
By 16 September 1991, the position of B-52 Stratofortress tail gunner was abolished. This was officially announced by General George L. Butler, head of U.S. Air Force Strategic Command. He described the decision as difficult, and cited the sharp budget cuts following the collapse of the Soviet Union as the key reason, not the incident in the Persian Gulf.
Source: We Are The Mighty