In 1966, the Times reported that within nine years, the B-52 would be too old and would need to be retired. That plan never came to fruition primarily because attempts to build a replacement for the B-52 failed.
Today, there is a B-52 pilot whose father and grandfather flew the plane, the Times reported.
And while some upgrades have been implemented over the generations, much of the mammoth B-52 – often called the "Big Ugly Fat Fellow," or "BUFF," for short – remains noticeably antiquated.
"It's like stepping back in time," Air Force Captain Lance Adsit, 28, said of the aircraft. "I love the B-52. But the fact that this is still flying is really insane."
Of the planned replacements for the B-52, one was too radioactive; another frequently crashed; yet another released toxic exhaust, the Times reported.
There are plans to eventually replace the B-52 with the yet-to-be-designed Long Range Strike Bomber. However, the Times reported, some question whether such bombers are needed these days to fight "insurgent wars and stateless armies."
More recently, the B-52 has been used mainly for "assurance and deterrence" missions. For example, Washington flew one of the 76 B-52 bombers over artificial islands constructed by Beijing in the South China Sea.
"We conduct B-52 flights in international air space in that part of the world all the time," Pentagon spokesperson Peter Cook said at the time.