Boeing B-52H Stratofortress bombers landed at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on April 9, a deployment that marks their first basing in the U.S. Central Command (Centcom) area of responsibility in a quarter of a century. The U.S. Air Force released images showing a pair of bombers arriving from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana, to support the campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Centcom has responsibility for an area spanning 20 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. B-52s were stationed in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm, the campaign to expel Iraqi forces from Kuwait, in 1991. The heavy bomber was last flown operationally during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan in 2001, and during an exercise in Jordan last May, according to the Air Force. It is replacing the B-1B Lancer bomber in the fight against the Islamic State—Operation Inherent Resolve.
The B-52 carries a 70,000-pound payload and can deliver precision guided bombs, mines, missiles and air-launched cruise missiles.
“The B-52 will provide the coalition continued precision and deliver desired airpower effects,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., commander of the Centcom and Combined Forces Air Component. “As a multi-role platform, the B-52 offers diverse capabilities including delivery of precision weapons and the flexibility and endurance needed to support the combatant commander's priorities and strengthen the coalition team.”
As of April 5, the U.S. had conducted 8,719 air strikes in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve; coalition partners had conducted 2,679. Nations participating in Iraq were: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands and the UK; in Syria: Australia, Bahrain, Canada, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE and UK. Since the start of “kinetic operations” on Aug. 8, 2014, through February 29, the campaign against Islamic State has cost $6.5 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.