In the coalition’s fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, one weapon of choice is an airframe that’s familiar to the adversary albeit one that’s far from cutting edge.
The B-52 Stratofortress entered service in 1955 and has been putting bombs on target for more than 60 years. Recognized as a catalyst for droves of Iraqi Republican Guard surrendering during Desert Storm No. 1, the affectionately named ‘Buff’ may be best know for its role in the December 1972 Christmas bombing of Hanoi and Haiphong during the Vietnam conflict.
For today’s warfighter, the Buff is still proving it is worth its weight in gold as a force multiplier, thus limiting the extremist group’s ability to project terror and conduct successful operations.
Earlier this year, B-52s arrived at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to join the American-led offensive. It is heavily involved in the Mosul campaign where the coalition conducted more than 191 strikes through Nov. 1, employing more than 1,352 weapons for operations, according to Air Forces Central Command spokeswoman Kiley Dougherty.
Despite being more than 60 years young, the Stratofortress is upgraded to drop precision-guided weapons, which is crucial when collateral damage is of concern. The aircraft’s payload capacity of 70,000 pounds can include smaller bombs, precision-guided missiles and Joint Direct Attack Munitions. Historically, only fighter jets have carried laser-guided bombs. The B-52 can carry bombs both internally and externally and has the capacity of several fighter jets combined. It can also loiter at a high altitude and stay on station longer than a fighter. It can therefore stay in the immediate area and engage emerging threats, whereas fighters typically only have enough fuel to fly to their targets and back.
Being able to loiter is proving crucial in the Area of Operations and not only brings capabilities to combatant commanders, but also peace of mind to coalition fighters on the ground.
“Frankly, we want our partners and the enemy to see the airpower (the B-52) overhead,” Col. Daniel Manning, the deputy director of the Combined Air Operations Center, said in an interview with Military.com. “A B-52 encourages our partner force that we have their back. Being seen is actually a pretty good thing.”
The deployment marks the first time the Air Force is using the B-52s — from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana — in the counter-ISIS fight.
Working in lock step with coalition ground forces, allied and coalition airpower, International Security Forces and the B-52 Stratofortress are orchestrating a precision effort to liberate the contentious ISIS stronghold in Mosul.
During a November 1 joint press conference at the Ninawa Operations Complex in Makhmour, Iraq, key military leaders from the Iraqi Army, Counter Terrorism Service, Peshmerga forces and the Coalition addressed the media.
Leaders validated the unprecedented cooperation between the Iraqi security forces and the Peshmerga as they work together to liberate villages along multiple axes for the Mosul offensive.
Air Force Col. John Dorrian, Combined Joint Task Force spokesman said, “Daesh (ISIS) has no answer for the unified ISF and Pesh. We are pleased as a Coalition of 60 nations to provide loyal support at Qayyarah West (Airfield) and strikes to advance ISF ground movement.”
Dorrian also referenced the impacts of the government of Iraq-approved strikes.
“We are using precision-guided missiles to maintain the structure and validity of the city and security of the people. This is a top priority for the Iraqi prime minister and the Coalition.”
Counterterrorism Service Spokesmen Mr. Sabah Noori stated, “Our forces have lots of responsibility and will meet the objective. I’m very impressed with the cooperation along each axis of advance. All are moving on time, which is important as we continue to cooperate with our brothers. This will end soon in our favor.”
Coalition fighters on the ground and civilian residents of the city are working toward the common goal of peace for Mosul. There are many weapons systems being employed to bring hope to the city’s residents, but it could possibly be a 60-year-old airframe providing an umbrella of deterrence that can truly make the difference.
“The B-52 will provide the coalition continued precision and deliver the desired airpower effects,” Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Combined Forces Air Component, said in a recent release.
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