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Saturday, March 5, 2016

The United States is set to send nuclear-capable B-52 warplanes to bomb ISIS

The warplanes will start attacking terrorist targets in Syria and Iraq in April as they replace B-1s that have returned to the US for updates.

It is not clear how many of the mammoth B-52s and airmen will take part in the deployment, that could see the bombers based at an American airbase in Qatar.

The B-52 Stratofortress can carry a 70,000-ton payload and can also carry nuclear warheads, although these are highly unlikely to be used on ISIS fighters because of the inevitable collateral damage.

The planes - nicknamed 'big ugly fat fellas' - can drop 'gravity bombs, cluster bombs, precision guided (cruise) missiles and joint direct attack munitions', according to Air Force Times.

The $84million bombers can also drop unguided bombs and were previously used in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

'We're going to keep the B-52 around. It provides some missions for us that are hard to replicate, primarily the range and payload the airplane provides,' Lieutenant General James 'Mike' Holmes said.

The B-52's payload is slightly smaller than that of the B-1 Lancers, which can fly at 900mph.

Lancers dropped 3,800 munitions on 3,700 ISIS targets in six months. They were only used in three per cent of missions but dropped 40 per cent of weapons used against ISIS, Fox News reported.

The Lancer, which can fly at 900-plus miles per hour, can hold 5,000 pounds more within the aircraft.

'The B-1s are rotated out, so they're not here right now, they've gone back to do some upgrades,' Lieutenant General Charles Q. Brown Jr said.

B-52s are often used in training exercises - and one was accompanied by US and South Korean fighter planes last month as it flew near the North Korean border in a show of strength following the rogue state's satellite launch.

The first model of the bombers was used since 1954 and they have been a staple of the US Air Force since.

Officials hope to keep them flying well into the 2040s.

B-52s were one arm of the nuclear deterrent force during the Cold War and were used in the carpet-bombings of North Vietnam.

During the 1991 Gulf War, they dropped 40 per cent of the ordnance on Iraq. With airborne refueling, the planes - now fitted to launch cruise missiles as well as drop bombs - can fly around the world.

During the first Gulf War, B-52s took off from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, fired missiles at Iraq, and returned home in a marathon 35-hour mission.

They were also used in the 1999 air campaign against Yugoslavia and pounded al-Qaeda and Taliban positions in Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002.

The B-52 was also involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

By Ollie Gillman for Dailymail

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