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B-52 bombers test their “long-range attack capabilities” in new war games

B-52 bombers test their “long-range attack capabilities” in new war games
B-52 bombers test their “long-range attack capabilities” in new war games

Summary and key points: During exercise Bayou Warrior, the U.S. Air Force’s 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, tested its long-range attack capabilities with B-52H bombers.

B-52

– The B-52 bombers were loaded with live AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs), simulating real-world combat scenarios to increase their operational readiness.

– Despite its 70-year history, the B-52 remains a critical part of the Air Force’s strategy, and modernizations will ensure its viability into the mid-21st century.

– This exercise, which involves rarely used and expensive JASSMs, highlights the B-52’s ability to carry a wide range of nuclear and conventional weapons and prepares crews for potential high-stakes conflict.

US Air Force B-52H bombers test long-range attack capabilities

As part of the service’s Bayou Warrior exercise earlier this month, the 2and Bomb Wing tested its long-range attack capabilities with its fleet of B-52H bombers.

The B-52s loaded live AGM-158 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missiles (JASSMs) during the readiness exercise at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. Although the exact details of the simulated combat scenario remain classified,and The Operations Support Squadron commander said the exercises were designed to reflect a possible real-world situation:

“Here’s the U.S. response. That’s how you got into this situation in this scenario. You’re now being asked by a combatant command to provide so many aircraft and weapons in such and such a time. So that sets the tone. That sets this real-world scenario for our crews that you have, seriously, a certain amount of time to get these jets ready, loaded and ready to fly.”

Introducing the B-52 Stratofortress

Don’t be fooled by the B-52’s seventy-plus years of service. This legacy bomber is a key part of the Air Force’s air strategy, and upgrades are making the platform fit for service in the mid-21st century.

The concept of this bomber emerged at the end of World War II, when the Air Material Command issued performance specifications for a new platform that would not depend on other nations’ forward and medium bases.

B-52

The Stratofortress was designed as a jet aircraft – unlike its predecessors, which were all propeller-powered. The strategic bomber can fly at high subsonic speeds at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet.

Although the bomber can carry a wide range of nuclear and conventional weapons – including free-fall bombs, cluster bombs and Joint Direct Attack Munitions – its primary role has always been as a conventional bomber. The improved B-52H variant can fire the widest variety of weapons in the U.S. inventory. The bomber can carry more than 70,000 pounds of various weapons, including AGM-86A air-launched cruise missiles, AGM-84 Harpoon missiles and a number of others.

The use of real JASSMs in Bayou Warrior was significant because the Air Force rarely uses these extremely expensive weapons in training exercises. Each JASSM reportedly costs more than a million dollars. A weapons systems officer from the 20th Bomber Squadron who participated in a JASSM test with real munitions told Air & Space Forces Magazine, “It’s not that common that we actually fly around with JASSMs on the pylons. So that’s a big deal because there are some differences between the simulation displays in the jet and the actual shapes on the jet. It’s good for the flight crew to fly with it because it makes them more competent in the sense that they have a better idea of ​​what they’re going to see, so we’re ready to go at a moment’s notice.”

B-52

As tensions between Washington and Beijing continue to escalate, exercises like Bayou Warrior provide pilots with the training they need to ensure their operational readiness.

About the author: Defense expert Maya Carlin

Maya CarlinA national security writer for The National Interest, she is an analyst at the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has been featured in numerous publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post and Times of Israel. You can follow her on Twitter: @MayaCarlin.

All images are Creative Commons or Shutterstock.

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