Most of the dramatic footage of bombing runs in Afghanistan feature precision strikes from small attack aircraft. Yet the antiquated B-52, once known for its ability to deliver crippling loads of bombs over wide swaths of land is now being used as a surgical tool in its own right, and the mighty Stratofortress has just set a new record.
“A U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress dropped a record number of precision guided bombs on Taliban over the past 24 hours in Northern Afghanistan,” Fox reports.
The mission lasted 96 hours, and targeted training facilities and narcotics operations in the country. The strikes also neutralized stolen assets, like Afghan National Army vehicles, that were being weaponized with explosives.
“The Taliban have nowhere to hide,” Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, said. “There will be no safe haven for any terrorist group bent on bringing harm and destruction to this country.”
The B-52 wasn’t carpet bombing, either (though that is still a role for which the B-52 is ideal). The 70 year old Stratofortress, continually updated, has now been converted and is now equipped with a rotary system capable of dropping guided munitions.
The B-52, in its new role, is completely impervious to enemy fire from the ground. As the planes are taking off and landing at distant bases, they’re flying well out of reach of any weapons the Taliban may have at their disposal.
The move comes as the United States is intensifying its role in Afghanistan. Troops are being pulled from Iraq as the very dominoes of the Islamic State fall.
“Western contractors [in Iraq] say U.S. troops began the drawdown over the past week, with groups of soldiers leaving the base on daily flights. The exact scale of the redeployment was unclear,” Fox writes.
“According to various estimates, as of 2016, there were more 5,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in Iraq, with nearly 4,000 deployed to support and assist local groups fighting ISIS militants. The remaining personnel included special operations forces, logistics workers and troops on temporary rotations.”
The security of those troops on the ground in ensured by the increased role of aircraft, like the B-52s, that can now operate with uncharacteristic precision and total control of the skies.