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US deploys B-52 bombers to Qatar for anti-IS operation

The B52s have not been based in the region since the 1991 Gulf War [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 April, 2016

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For the first time in 26 years, the US is deploying B-52 bombers to the Middle East to support coalition air strikes against the Islamic State.
The US has deployed B-52 bombers to Qatar to take part in the US-led bombing campaign against the Islamic State group, the US Air Force said Saturday.

The long-range bombers arrived at the Al Udeid Air Base in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the American military operation against the Islamic State (IS) that began in June 2014.

Citing "operational security reasons," the Air Force did not provide the exact number of B-52 bombers to be based in Qatar, but said that they would enable US forces to drop one or two munitions in an area, rather than engage in massive indiscriminate bombing.

"The B-52 will provide the coalition continued precision and deliver desired airpower effects," Lieutenant General Charles Brown, commander of US Air Forces Central Command, said.

"Accuracy is critically important in this war," Lieutenant Colonel Chris Karns, spokesman for the Central Command, said. "Carpet-bombing would not be effective for the operation we're in because Daesh doesn't mass as large groups. Often they blend into population centres."

First introduced by Boeing in 1955, the bombers can perform a variety of missions including strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction and maritime operations. 

They have not been based in the region since the 1991 Gulf War, when they operated from neighbouring Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm.

First introduced by Boeing in 1955, the bombers can perform a variety of missions including strategic attack, close-air support, air interdiction and maritime operations.

The bombers have, however, been flown operationally during Operation Enduring Freedom in May 2006, and during Exercise Eager Lion, a US-led multilateral exercise in Jordan, in May 2015.

The Air Force has said that the 19-nation air coalition has conducted more than 33,000 airpower missions in support of OIR.

Since the beginning of the operation, about 459 vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, 776 mortar systems, 1,933 logistics buildings housing these weapons, 662 weapons caches and 1,341 staging areas have been struck.

At the end of last month, the Pentagon introduced the Inherent Resolve Campaign Medal for service members fighting IS.

The medal was controversial for its use of an image with what appeared to be a hand wearing medieval armor – images that invoke armour-clad crusaders that have been a source of controversy for the US military before.

Agencies contributed to this report.

International strikes against IS by December 2015

 

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