For 28-year-old U.S. Air Force Captain Julian Gluck, piloting a big bomber more than twice his age is all in a day’s work. Gluck currently serves as an aircraft commander on the Boeing B-52H Stratofortress, flying out of Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana with the 20th Bomb Squadron “Buccaneers.” Incredibly, the “BUFFs” he pilots carry tail codes from 1960 and ’61, although the bombers have since seen numerous modifications.
Introduced in 1955, the B-52 is among the longest-serving airplanes in the U.S. military inventory, and certainly the oldest bomber. “We have people who I’ve flown with whose parents and grandparents have been associated with the aircraft,” says Gluck. “Seeing multiple generations of BUFF aviators is pretty amazing.”
When he was assigned to the B-52, Gluck says he “was excited about the opportunity to be on a strike platform, especially something as historic as the BUFF.” He has served in two deployments, the first with the 96th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron “Red Devils” to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, from which he flew 36 combat missions in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. “The missions that I flew in the liberation of Mosul in Iraq and the Raqqa campaign are certainly the most meaningful for me, with the protection of the good people of Iraq and Syria from the extremism of ISIS,” he says. His second deployment, with the Buccaneers, took him to Andersen Air Force Base on Guam, where he flew about a dozen deterrence and assurance missions for Pacific Command.
The captain says he appreciates “the flexibility of the aircraft and the diversity of missions that you can have with it considering it’s a very ‘plug-and-play’ jet—we can utilize more weaponry than essentially any other platform in the world.” He notes that “the B-52 has an incredible ability for stand-off weaponry that I think will serve it well in coming conflicts. What we’ve been given over the past 10 years as far as using our [Lockheed Martin Sniper] pod to provide close imagery and targeting as well as our various weapons—our laser-guided bombs, our GPS-aided inertial-guided weapons like the GBU-38 and GBU-31—is very important to being able to have precision and accuracy for helping our nation and our allies against various threats.”
“The B-52 is really the perfect platform for what we are doing today,” sums up Gluck. Asked if there’s anything he dislikes about the airplane, he says, “I think the jet could have benefitted from having a functional toilet,” but that “we make due.” ’Nuff said.
“I see the B-52 as part of our nation’s defense for a long time,” Gluck says. “I think the BUFF will outlast my career, no matter how long that lasts.”
In recognition of his outstanding military service and volunteering efforts too numerous to list here, Gluck was recently honored as Air Force Times’ 2018 Airman of the Year. “I’m very grateful,” he says. “I think there are thousands of people in the Air Force who would be very deserving of it, but I’m appreciative of the opportunity to represent the wonderful bomber community, aviators I’ve flown with—both downrange and at home—as well as our maintainers and everyone else who supports the B-52 mission.” Read more about Gluck’s service at airforcetimes.com/gluck.
This article originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Aviation History. Subscribe here.