By Debbie Gregory.
Widely used during the Vietnam and first Gulf wars, the U.S. Air Force is sending an icon into the fight against ISIS.
A group of B-52H Stratofortress aircraft arrived at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar earlier this month. The aircraft, which has been in service since 1955, replaced B-1B Lancers as the primary heavy bombers used by the U.S. in Iraq and Syria.
The B-52 is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds at altitudes up to 50,000 feet, and can carry both nuclear and conventional bombs, according to the Air Force. Additionally, it can stay in the air for over 10 hours at a time and carries a much larger payload than F-16 or F-15 fighter jets.
The bombers played a prominent role Operation Desert Storm in 1991, when they were based in Saudi Arabia, according to the Air Force.
Defense officials have pledged to send eight Apache helicopters and deploy more than 200 additional troops to Iraq, which would be the first major increase in U.S. forces in nearly a year. The move is in support of Iraqi forces as they move to retake the key northern city of Mosul.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the decision to move U.S. advisers to the Iraqi brigade and battalion level will put them ‘closer to the action,’ but he said they will have security forces with them and the U.S. will do what’s needed to reduce the risks.
At a Pentagon press briefing, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said that the air campaign against ISIS is “taking a toll on our aircraft, our readiness and our airmen” but the “venerable B-52 … remains ready and able to meet combatant commander requirements.”
Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, said, “The B-52 demonstrates our continued resolve to apply persistent pressure on (ISIS) and defend the region in any future contingency.”