Skip to comments.B-52s return home safely
Posted on 03/22/2003 5:10:12 AM PST by knighthawk
The giant US Air Force B-52 bombers returned safely to their base at RAF Fairford today after taking part in the massive air assault on Baghdad.
The bombers had left Fairford in Gloucestershire at around 10am yesterday before the massive assault on the Iraqi capital got under way.
The fleet of aircraft dropped their cruise missiles, which have a 1,000-mile range, well away from Iraqi airspace.
Yesterday was the first time that so many of the planes had left the base in one sortie.
They have a range of 8,000 miles and are able to hit Iraqi targets within around six hours of leaving Britain.
Britain's role in the war with Iraq was stepped up when the Defence Secretary, Geoff Hoon, gave clearance for 14 of the long-range bombers to be based at Fairford.
The veteran aircraft achieved notoriety in the Vietnam war for the "carpet bombing" technique.
They were deployed from Fairford four years ago when they led the Nato bombing of Serbian forces in Kosovo.
The aircraft, which can carry a payload of up to 30 tonnes, including cruise missiles, also flew 60 missions in the 1991 Gulf War, dropping more than 1,158 tonnes of explosives upon Iraqi and Kuwaiti targets.
The 159ft-long aircraft usually have a crew of six and can travel for up to 7,000 miles without refuelling.
Its distinctive outline and eight thunderous engines have been used to great psychological effect during wars but in the 1991 Gulf War bombs were dropped from heights of up to seven miles with troops below never even seeing or hearing the aircraft.
A wave of three B-52s can create bomb craters one mile square and 50ft deep.
The aircraft first entered service in 1955 but constant upgrades have kept it in the front line with Boeing saying it should remain in service until at least 2040.