Read about two B-52 Strafortress bombers’ historic un-MANned missions

A U.S. Air Force B-52 taking off for its March 22, 2016 (Image credit: U.S. Air Force)

An all-female nuclear strike force!

On Mar. 22, 2016, in honor of Women’s History Month, Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, made history by launching two B-52 Stratofortress bombers with all-female crews. The training mission included in-air refueling and target practice.

Noteworthy, the missions, that also featured female crew chiefs, were just part of the Air Force Global Strike Command’s recognition of Women’s History Month, as on the same day all of the United States’ alert intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) missileers were crewed by women.


Among the pilots taking part in the historic mission there was Maj. Heather Decker, with the 93rd Bomb Squadron, who, in an Air Force release explained:

“My first flight in a B-52, on May 12, 2003, was an eye-opening experience. It was like driving a bus […] It’s more challenging than most airplanes. It’s very mechanical, and you have to move it around physically.” Decker was also the first female Reserve pilot to qualify in the B-52 more than 10 years ago.

B-52 female cockpit

Staff Sgt. Belinda Thoreson, a crew chief assigned to the 707th Maintenance Squadron,  helped launch one of the B-52s. “It’s okay to do things as a woman. Don’t let anyone pressure you into being anything different (than yourself), follow your dreams and sometimes the most unexpected things can bring you the most joy and reward,” she said.

Currently, women make up 19 percent of the Air Force.

B-52 female crew

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.