Stepping up its campaign against IS in Iraq and Syria, the US Air Force has sent long-range B-52 bombers to its air base in Qatar.
This is the first time in 26 years that the US Central Command will base the aircraft in the Middle East, after B-52s were stationed in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War in 1991.
In a statement, Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command and Combined Forces Air Component, said the aircraft would help the US-led coalition carry out precision strikes against IS forces in multiple countries.
“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 commanders’ priorities and strengthen the coalition team.
The B-52 demonstrates our continued resolve to apply persistent pressure on (ISIL) and defend the region in any future contingency,” he said.
According to Reuters, the exact number of B-52 bombers to be based at the Al Udeid Air Base could not be disclosed due to “operational security reasons.”
It quoted a Central Command spokesman as saying the bombers would help forces avoid mass casualties.
“Accuracy is critically important in this war,” Lt. Col. Chris Karns 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 centers. We always look to minimize civilian casualties.”
The B-52s were last flown operationally during Operation Enduring Freedom in May 2006, and during Exercise Eager Lion, a USCENTCOM-led multilateral exercise in Jordan, in May 2015, the statement said.