B-52s joining fight against ISIS

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The Pentagon in January pulled B-1 bombers that had been used to fight ISIS

The B-52, one of the oldest active Air Force planes, first entered service in the 1950s

CNN  — 

The U.S. Air Force is sending a Cold War icon into the fight against ISIS.

B-52 Stratofortresses from Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana arrived at an air base in Qatar on Saturday for use against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, the Air Force said in a statement.

The service did not say how many of the eight-engine, 180,000-pound B-52s were in Qatar, but their deployment was not a surprise.

The Pentagon in January pulled from Qatar B-1 bombers that had been used to fight ISIS.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in early March that the B-52s were ready to step in.

The air campaign against ISIS is “taking a toll on our aircraft, our readiness and our airmen” but the “venerable B-52 … remains ready and able to meet combatant commander requirements,” she said during a Pentagon press briefing.

The Air Force said Saturday it was the first time the B-52s would be based in Central Command’s area of operation in 26 years. The bombers played a prominent role Operation Desert Storm in 1991, when they were based in Saudi Arabia, the Air Force said.

“As a multi-role platform, the B-52 offers diverse capabilities including delivery of precision weapons and the flexibility and endurance needed to support the combatant commanders’ priorities and strengthen the coalition team.” Lt. Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the commander of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, said in the statement.

“The B-52 demonstrates our continued resolve to apply persistent pressure on (ISIS) and defend the region in any future contingency,” Brown said.

The B-52 is one of the oldest active aircraft in the Air Force, having first entered service in the 1950s during the height of the Cold War. It originally was designed to serve as a long-range, high-altitude intercontinental nuclear bomber that could strike deep into the Soviet Union.

The newest B-52 entered service in 1962 and the plane became a Cold War icon, featured prominently in the 1964 film “Dr. Strangelove.”

The planes have been modified heavily since the end of the Cold War and have been upgraded with precision-guided missiles, electronics and high-tech sensors. The plane can carry up to 70,000 pounds of bombs, mines and missiles, according to the Air Force’s official fact sheet.

The Air Force said the B-52s were responsible for dropping 40% of all munitions during Operation Desert Storm. The B-52s also saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan throughout the 2000s.

Prior to their January withdrawal, the B-1 bombers had flown 490 sorties against ISIS during their six-month deployment, according to a release from the 28th Bomb Wing out of Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota.