U.S. B-52 bombers have dropped 3,419 weapons on Daesh targets since April 2016.

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress peels off after refueling from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Feb. 15, 2017. The 340th EARS extended the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists by delivering fuel to U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and a B-52 Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

The venerable B-52 strategic bombers have been quite busy fighting ISIL in the last months.

Six B-52 Stratofortress bombers are deployed to Al Udeid, Qatar, supporting Operation Inherent Resolve against ISIL in Syria and Iraq since April 2016.

The aircraft have replaced the B-1s, that returned stateside for upgrades and are expected to perform a new tour of duty in the Middle East by the end of 2017.

The Buffs launched their first air strike against ISIS on Apr. 18 (targeting a Daesh weapons storage facility in Qayyarah, Iraq).

Since then, the B-52s have carried out the same kind of missions the B-1s flew in theater before they were relieved by the Buffs: mainly Close Air Support and Air Interdiction delivering a wide variety of PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions): as of Feb. 20, 2017, the strategic bombers have carried out 729 sorties, dropping 3,419 weapons on Daesh targets in Iraq.

Based on the images released by the flying branch so far, the 6o years old aircraft have flown with the underwing pylons loaded with two types of JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions): the 500-lb laser-guided GBU-54s and the 2,000-lb GPS-guided GBU-31V3 “bunker busters” onto the Heavy Stores Adaptor Beam pylons.

A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress refuels from a 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Stratotanker in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, Feb. 15, 2017. The 340th EARS extended the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists by delivering fuel to U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcons, A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and a B-52 Stratofortress. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

One of the most common loadout includes 3x GBU-31s and 8x GBU-54s along with PGMs carried inside the bomb bay of the B-52H Stratofortress. With the 1760 Internal Weapons Bay Upgrade the Buffs can carry up to 16 external laser JDAMs (8 per pylon) as well as 8 internal J-series weapons mounted on a conventional rotary launcher.

Such “mixed” PGM configuration provide the aircraft the ability to deliver “kinetic” attacks engaging both stationary and moving ground targets with reduced collateral damage (using the GBU-54s, that combines 500-lb Mk-82 warhead and the precision strike capability delivered by its dual Laser/GPS mode guidance system) as well as concrete shelters and hardened targets by means of the GBU-31s that use the BLU-109 forged steel penetrator warhead.

According to the U.S. Air Force, the B-52 will be constantly upgraded so that it will be able to internally carry eight joint air-to-surface standoff missiles, as well as a variety of miniature air-launched decoys. It will also have the option of carrying up to 12 extended-range JASSM-ERs on the external pylons for a total capacity of 20 of these advanced, stealthy cruise missiles.

Until the venerable B-52 is replaced by the recently announced B-21 Raider, the B-52 is projected to continue operations until at least 2040 thanks to a series of constant upgrades that will facilitate the Stratofortress flying into is 90th year.

The current “H” model is indeed much different from the early B-52 that flew for the first time in 1952. It currently features multi-function digital display screens, computer network servers and real-time communication uplinks with Internet access.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Ben, left, and Capt. Justin, right, 96th Expeditionary Bomber Squadron pilots, takeoff to execute air operations in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Feb. 13, 2017. The B-52 Stratofortress enables vital kinetic capability for the U.S. Air Force and is actively engaged in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terrorists. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jordan Castelan)

 

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About David Cenciotti 4406 Articles
David Cenciotti is a freelance 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 four books.

4 Comments

  1. Good job guys! 3700+ bombs in 10+ months. My A-10 Squadron did half that in 3 months. Plus 59 Mavericks, tons of Rockets and 77,000+ rounds of 30mm HEI in about 800 sorties. We also managed to hit the really hard targets like Cranes hidden under bridges, Tanks hidden in hardened aircraft shelters, individual people driving mopeds with AGR-20 rockets, bridges, roads, perform CAS within 65 meters of friendlies.

    Now I am not trying to take away from the BUFF’s, those guys can level several cities in one sortie depending on their load out (NUKES!), also they have a wide range of weapons, from LGBs, JDAMS, ALCMS, Nukes, Mines, all kinds of stuff. Also we need to be fairly close to our target, they can take off from HOME and hit anywhere they want. So Keep on keeping on BUFFs! Go Ugly early, but if you cant…call the BUFF.

  2. Yes, too bad we didn’t have those B-52s to drop “iron bombs” and do “collateral damage” on Nazi Germany. We had to get by with B-17s and the like. Still, those old bombers did well enough, although their crews suffered some of the worst casuality rates in the war. You can see that grim situation portrayed in the immediately post-war film, “Twelve O’clock High.”

    In my experience, those who sneer at fighting evil with violence have a secret desire that the bad guys win—here Islamic terrorists. They also come up a bit short when it comes to courage. Bombs, guns and the like scare their easily intimidated souls.

    Rudyard Kipling summed up the more common, although still less than impressive, view in his poem “Tommy.” Here are the refrains:
    —-
    O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
    But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
    The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
    O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.

    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, wait outside”;
    But it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide,
    The troopship’s on the tide, my boys, the troopship’s on the tide,
    O it’s “Special train for Atkins” when the trooper’s on the tide.

    Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
    But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
    The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
    O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

    While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind”,
    But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind,
    There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
    O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir”, when there’s trouble in the wind.

    For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
    But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
    An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
    An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!
    —–

    Recall the relief that the British when the soldiers who got away from Dunkirk arrived. Those survivors were the only barrier that stood between them and the arrival of Nazi overlords. The same can be said for the brave Hurricane and Spitfire pilots who faced death in the sky during the Blitz.

    Then there’s a caption to a picture I saw just after January 20th. It read: “This men’s march did not carry signs.” It was attached to a combat photo of American soldiers wading ashore from landing craft during the Normandy invasion.

    In The Four Loves, C. S. Lewis explores the four loves mentioned by the classical Greeks, including friendship and romantic love. He also suggests a fifth: a love based on an appreciation for what others have done for us. That applies all too well to all in our military who go in harm’s way for our sake.

    Bless them.

  3. The B-52 is a great symbol. It is strong, rugged and dependable, with an enviable service record and is a design that has yet to be improved on. The weapons described in the article are precision-guided munitions, directed by GPS and laser.

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