During the past two weeks, the hot news of the Middle East has focused – as has been the case for decades – on the movements of a number of giant American bombers (B-52) from their bases in the United States of America to the Middle East, amid increasing media tension between Washington and Tehran, especially after one year of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, The commander of the Iranian “Quds Force” and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Iraqi commander of the Popular Mobilisation Committee (PMC) which corresponding to (Sunday, January 3, 2021).
In this regard, the question that arises is, what is this aircraft?, and what is its weight at the strategic level?, alongside with the underlying causes behind brining such aircraft to the Middle East?.
Overview of the bomber (B-52)
After the Second World War, the United stated of America found itself the greatest political and strategic polar in the whole world. Accordingly, it becomes in need more than before to access long-range arms that can – if they are prepared as perfect as required- rapidly intervene in the farthest geographical areas from its borders.
The US in addition to its incomparable naval capabilities, and its air forces that are steadily developing to be able to reach the farthest spots away its land, made its dreams true by the production of an aircraft with a range reaches the hemisphere with its full load of heavy bombs and others. So it obtained a large number of the giant bombers of (B-52) in the mid-1950s, which soon doubled in number to a few hundred in the 1960s then they exceeded (700) bombers in the mid-1980s.
Additionally, the US had upgraded the old models of its bombers, and continued the production of new models of these bombers until it reached the eighth model called “H-mark” with the tremendous capabilities that we will introduce it shortly.
The main specifications of the bomber (B-52*)
The first model of it flew on 15th April,1952.
Kind: long-range heavy strategic bomber.
Cockpit: (6) pilots.
Driving force: the world’s only aircraft with eight jet engines.
Dimensions: Length (49) meters… Width (56) meters.
Maximum horizontal speed: (957) km / hour.
The maximum height: (16,765) meters.
Maximum range: (16093) km, without air refueling.
Nowadays, this bomber is at the service of the “Strategic Air Command” only, and there are more than (700) bombers still in service, most of them are produced, developed, or upgraded with “H-mark”
Arming and equipping :
- Multi-barrel machine gun (12.5 mm) to defend the back of the bomber.
- (40) tons of various bombs with different weights – whether they are regular or nuclear – for free and direct drop on various targets, with weights ranging between (250 kg – 9 tons).
- (3) points placed below each wing to carry bombs or regular or nuclear projectiles, or (air-to-air) projectiles to target the interceptor aircraft.
- In case the free-drop of bombs are dispensed, the “B-52” will replaced them by the following:
(20) “Cruise” missiles with regular or nuclear warheads with a range of (800-1000) km … and (8) “Cruz” missiles with a range of (3000-5000) km.
- One frontal radar, two radars on the sides and the fourth radar on the back.
- Advanced technologies for the electronic jamming and the anti-jamming as well.
- Wireless communications network and video and visual internet to communicate with reconnaissance aircraft, “AWACS” and satellites.
- Special equipment for air refueling the aircraft from the “tanker aircraft, to double the range or hours of flight.
Thus, it would then become clear that it is not just a giant aircraft as it look like to the onlooker, but rather a flying fortress or a flying warship that one only of them can destroy a medium-sized country with all of its facilities and infrastructure within an hour or less…. So what we knew that there were (744) bombers of this model have been entered service for the US Strategic Air Command since the mid-1950, and only two of them have left the service, which mean that (742) bombers are still effective&**.
The bomber (B-52) in the Middle East
in fact, it was not the first time that the bomber (B-52) had been moved to the hotspots regions of the Middle East to participate in certain tasks there, and definitely, it will not the last time, as it participated heavily and violently in the bombing operations against the Iraqi forces on a daily basis throughout the (43) days of the Second Gulf War (January 17 to February 28, 1991), and then during the US invasion to Afghanistan since (October 7, 2001), up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq (19 March to 9 April 2003).
During all those wars, there were dozens of these bombers launching – on a daily basis – from American or European air bases, or from the “Diego Garcia” base in the middle of the Indian Ocean, or from the American bases in the Pacific Ocean, but a large number of them, especially after the occupation of Iraq were stationed – almost permanently – in the center of huge air bases in a number of Arab Gulf states according to the defense treaties signed between the two parties.
Destiny has allowed me to see – with my naked eyes and with a binoculars as well (4) of the bombers (B-52) when they were dropping bombs one after the other – on a daily basis – against the units of the Iraqi Republican Guard surrounding Baghdad. The successive fall of these bombs resembled a machine gun that firing its shells in a form of long, continuous shots.
The last appearance to the bomber (B-52*)
Nowadays, All of us are following the news relating to the arrival of the giant American aircraft carrier “NIMITZ”, which is loaded with (93) aircrafts of various models and types, not to mention that it has more than (100) cruise missiles with ranges of (800-2500) km, surrounded by a fleet of (8) Huge warships each one of them carrying (100) cruise missiles, similar to what we mentioned. The entire fleet crossed the Strait of Hormuz, and started wandering in the Gulf waters, 200-300 km away the Iranian coast.
The US submarine “Georgia” followed that fleet, carrying (154) of the “cruise” missiles with the same specifications, that are launched from the depths, as all parts of Iranian territory became within the range of the aircrafts of the carrier, submarine missiles, and the fleet’s ships.
Therefore, the departure of only two bombers from the United States of America recently, and their passing to thousands of kilometers within tens of hours of continuous flight, and their repeated flight in the airspace of the Arabian Gulf that is close to the Iranian coasts for three times during the month of December 2020, is considered a surprising behavior from the American leadership in the last weeks of the president Trump at the White House, especially that Washington has dozens of these bombers of this type that are stationed at bases adjacent to or near Iran!
But the general vision is contrary to this, the matter is not just a demonstration of force, muscle-flexing, and unbalanced behaviour from President Trump, as some “strategic experts” claim. Rather, this step refers to more than one American message, namely:
- The US is adopting the policy of threat of use of the enormous force if Tehran or one of its affiliated militants, especially in Iraq, attempt to undermine any of the US interests in the Middle East surrounding Iran.
- The US has very influential and destructive strategic tools that can be launched from its lands up to the Middle East, and can be returned to the motherland without the need for anyone.
- Washington does not need any of the Arab Gulf states that have inconsistent policies with Iran, and at the same time, it does not seek to embarrass its government if an American-Iranian conflict has broken out, where the Iranian argument would be weak and abhorrent in the event of its intention to harm any of them.
Prospects on the horizon:
All the challenges, threats, preparations and mobilizations indicate that there are upcoming and imminent dangers that may happen suddenly in the Middle East on the first anniversary of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian “Quds Force”, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chairman of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Committee, which corresponding to Sunday (January 3, 2021). as stated above … the most prominent of which are the following:
- The Iranian threats issued by the senior officials, leaders and advisors, along with many leaders of the extremist Iraqi factions, to “take revenge” against the United States that targeted and killed Soleimani and Al-Muhandis.
- The claims of senior Iranian officials in Tehran to the Iraqi government and the Iraqi “Popular Mobilization” factions that necessitate “the revenge” in Iraq specifically, as long as Qassem Soleimani was killed in Baghdad.
- The emergency precautions taken by the American embassy in Baghdad, and reducing the number of its employees by one half in anticipation of an attack on the embassy and perhaps its occupation and the detaining of its employees and guardians, as happened in Benghazi on (September 11, 2012), and before that in Tehran on (November 4, 1979).
- Fueling the anti-American sentiments for weeks through the media, sermons and “religious” directives in the minds of the affiliates of the Iranian militias in Iraq in particular, in preparation for some action.
- Violation of the truce that the Iranian militias agreed upon to halt the rocket attacks on the US embassy and the Green Zone, with a sudden and unprecedented escalation of (21) “Katyusha” missiles in the evening of (20-January-2020), and the return to target the trucks carrying supplies for the American and foreign forces with improvised explosive devices on the external roads.
- The unannounced visit made by Ismail Qaani, the commander of the Iranian “Quds Force” to Baghdad, and his meetings with a number of the most extreme Iranian militia leaders, alongside with the news that has been circulated which indicate that he has conveyed strict instructions on (3/1/2021) to them that they must confront the Americans without hesitation …but some argue that he came to direct them to stay calm for weeks during which they should only organize rallies and make denunciations until the US President-elect Joe Biden’s objectives regarding the nuclear deal and US sanctions on Iran are clarified.
- The US ex-president Donald Trump presided over an emergency meeting with his top advisers and a number of leaders of the armed forces, and there were unconfirmed information that he took extraordinary decisions that were not announced.
- The media leaks that indicate to there were military exercises conducted by units of the US “Marines” on supposed targets, which in turn suggest that there is a preparation for possible reaction.
- The US intelligence information and the and Iraqi eyewitnesses indicate that there are dozens of ballistic missiles that were brought from Iran and placed in the “Jurf al-Sakhr” area, 200 km away from the “Ain al-Assad” base, where the American forces are concentrated heavily.
- The state of uncertainty about the US constitution regarding the presidency matter, and what was rumoured about Trump’s insistence on staying in the White House, and his non-acceptance of the results of the presidential elections in which Biden was declared winning the election, and the possibility of his seriousness in directing strikes against Iran 15 days or more prior to leaving office, which means declaring war against Iran would constitutionally make him a president for another term similar to what happened when President Franklin Roosevelt declared war against Japan and enjoyed a third term without a presidential election.
The current possibilities
Despite all these dramatic escalations, the US-Iranian disagreements – in principle – are not surprising, as the relationship between the two countries came to an end in 1979. Since then, the deterioration in the relationship between the two countries accompanied by mutual threats for four decades, which limited to media statements without firing even one shot against the other until the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in Baghdad and not in Tehran. However, some observers even claim that the current escalation is nothing but ” Tempest in a teapot” which ends soon like the previous ones.
However, we believe that these military concentrations have cost the United States of America hundreds of millions of dollars. and they are not usual, but rather they resemble, to some extent, what happened before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and according to this opinion we present the following:
- The Iranian leaders are careful to avoid their country significant dangers, and they are well aware that the clash with the Americans, who are superior in everything, will only lead to the collapse of their ruling regime and the destruction of their facilities and infrastructure, and therefore they will be content with the media escalation for the purposes of local and regional consumption. So that they do not appear weak and are not able to face their enemies.
- If the American threat becomes serious and appeared to be a final and irrevocable decision, and that Washington may fabricate a pretext to justify its next steps. At that time, it is expected that Iran will disassociate itself from the dangers by assigning a number of its armed political arms in the region – especially in Iraq – to do what is necessary and provoke the anger of the Americans, so they will target them in their own homes instead of Iran.
- However, the current dilemma lies in the American assertions time after time that any attack on the American’s people from these factions, which are affiliated to Iran, the US will consider Tehran responsible for it and should bear its consequences; Therefore, the Iranian regime rushed to send the commander of the “Quds Force” to direct his militias in Baghdad to rely for weeks on organizing rallies and denouncing the American policies, while emphasizing the necessity of not killing any American soldier or civilian for any reason, until the US President-elect Joe Biden’s policy towards Iran is clarified.
Finally, it can be said that that the possible US strike against Iran or its affiliated militants in Iraq in particular, is expected only if one of the following possibilities happen:
- If President Trump decided to wage war against Iran without retreating to achieve one internal goal or another.
- If an American soldier or civilian was killed as a result of an Iranian act, or an attack made by one of the armed factions that are acting under Tehran’s orders.
- If the US embassy or one of its consulates in Iraq or the Middle East has been occupied and its employees have been detained, then the US despite the risk that may affect its nationals in Iraq would have to do so.
“The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Barq for Policies and Consultations.”
All rights reserved to Barq for Policies and Consultations © 2021
(*) See details in: Subhi Nazim Tawfiq, Brigadier General: – The most recent warplanes used in the world, the 4th edition, Offset Press Al-Intisar, Baghdad, 1989, pp. 42-43.
(**) Many details about this bomber are seen in: MODERN MILITARY AIRCRAFT, CHARTWELL BOOKS, Amber Books Ltd, LONDON, 2014, PP 64-65.