With the US Air Force’s forward-deployed B-1B Lancers pulling out of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar in January for upgrades stateside, the Air Force plans on introducing its oldest strategic bombers to the fight against Daesh (ISIS). That’s right, the eight-engined B-52H Stratofortress is about to be introduced to the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve’s order of battle.
Also known as the Big Ugly Fat F***er (BUFF for short), the B-52 has been flying with Air Force roundels since 1955, serving in nearly every major American conflict from Vietnam to the recent engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to current Secretary of the Air Force Deborah James, “… there have been recent infrastructure improvements that now allow the necessary support to deploy the B-52 in theater”. Though it was originally built to be able to deploy “dumb” unguided munitions or nuclear weapons during the Cold War years against potential Soviet targets, it has been modified in recent decades to utilize “smart” guided munitions. This will likely keep it relevant (and in service) for at least the next 20 years or so.
The Air Force’s Global Strike Command currently maintains five active duty B-52H squadrons, based out of Louisiana and North Dakota, as well as two squadrons in reserve. The remaining active B-52 units exist for testing and training purposes. The BUFF can launch with 70,000 lbs of ordnance in various configurations, and typically operates with a crew of five. Details on which units will be involved in the anti-Daesh operations have not yet been released to the public.