Washington: The US is set to deploy its nuclear-capable B-52 warplanes for the first time to bomb ISIS as part of efforts to ramp up campaign against terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
The B-52 Stratofortress could begin dropping bombs on the Islamic State group from April, the Air Force Times reported.
The bombers would be headed to the Central Command area of operations to replace the B-1 Lancers, the last of them returning in January, officials were quoted saying at an Air Force Association Conference. The B-1s should return after they receive additional upgrades.
However, it is not clear how many B-52s or the number of airmen, under Air Force Global Strike Command, will be deployed for the potential operation.
The aircraft, which had been used to drop unguided bombs in previous wars, including Afghanistan, can now be used to provide backup with the accuracy of precision-guided munitions.
If scheduled, it would be the first deployment for the bombers to fight Islamic State targets.
“We’re going to keep the B-52 around. It provides some missions for us that are hard to replicate, primarily the range and payload the airplane provides,” Lt Gen James ‘Mike’ Holmes, the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, said last month.
B-52, nicknamed the “Big Ugly Fat Fella” or BUFF, has a payload capacity of 70,000 pounds, which includes “gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided (cruise) missiles and joint direct attack munitions”.
The US decided to pull out B-1 bombers, one of the most dependable American weapons, from the battle against ISIS in Syria and Iraq for upgrades.