A B-52 Stratofortress, a long-range strategic bomber, just set a record for the number of “smart bombs” dropped during a combat mission, Military.com reported. Smart bombs use GPS to guide missiles to their targets.
It happened during a November mission in Afghanistan, Air Force Brig. Gen. Lance Bunch, director of NATO’s Resolute Support mission, future operations, told Military.com. The bomber is stationed at the Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar. The airframe’s history dates back to the start of the Cold War.
“So, we’ve used — so far, we’ve used B-52s with their new conventional rotary launcher,” Bunch said in the Military.com report. “Of note, it was the single most — largest number of precision munitions ever dropped from a B-52.”
How many bombs were dropped?
During the first night of an expanded strike mission against the Taliban’s revenue stream, B-52s released 19 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMS, against multiple targets, Air Forces Central Command spokeswoman Capt. AnnMarie Annicelli said in the Military.com report.
“The first munitions released in combat from the [conventional rotary launcher] occurred on Nov. 18 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve (Iraq),” Annicelli said. “However, this was the first use of the CRL in a major, deliberately planned operation.”
The operation took place in Helmand Province against narcotics facilities and an IED storage facility, she said.
B-52 can carry more smart bombs with the conventional rotary launcher, according to Military.com.
In all, B-52s have dropped about 1,500 weapons in Afghanistan since January 2017. About half of them were not guided. The B-52 can carry “about 70,000 pounds of mixed ordnance, including bombs, mines and missiles,” according to Military.com.
Military.com credits “more independence and authority under the Trump administration” as the reason the U.S. military is using more advanced technologies in the war. This includes “the largest conventional bomb” and the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter.
“The Taliban are believed to remain “in control of 13 percent of 407 districts in the country, with 43 percent of districts under the group’s control or being contested,” Military.com reported. The figures came from a recent report by the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is now in its 16th year.
Are civilian deaths in Afghanistan rising?
Other reports have pointed to sharp increase in the number of civilian deaths during the first six months of 2017.
There were a total of 1,662 civilian deaths between Jan. 1 and June 30, according to a report released Monday by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, The Atlantic reported. The figure represents a “two percent increase since last year’s record high.”
The number of injured civilians has declined, according to the report. About 3,581 civilians were wounded from January to June.