A new role for B-52s? Close air support?

According to this AP story, a group of American Special Forces came under fire this morning in western Afghanistan and called for air support. Along came a B-52 which dropped a number of bombs while the troops “escaped under fire”.

Is this a first? I don’t recall ever reading about strategic bombers used to support small, mobile infantry units under fire. I imagine it was orbiting overhead and happened to be the closest thing available. It makes me wonder if the USAF has one or two of these orbiting ovehead 24 hours a day, since I think they travel a hell of a long way from their base. Are they flying out of Diego Garcia?

I’m pretty sure B-52’s did some close air support in Viet Nam.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.

The closest I can think of was during the siege of Khe San(sp?), where they carpet bombed the hills around the marine base to interdict North Vietnamese reinforcement and resupply. This isn’t quite the same thing.

Not that I’m an expert at such matters, but I believe they’ve been using the B-52 for this type of task ever since they started using GPS and possibly laser-guided munitions. The B-52 is a very adaptable platform and since they don’t really carpet bomb anymore, they had to do something with it!

Yes the were used in close air support in Vietnam.


Depends on your definition of Close Air Support. B-52’s flew 2548 sorties over Khe Sahn, and dropped within 300 yards of US Marine Corps perimeter. Page 8 of this ppt.

FMFM 5-42 (Fleet Marine Force Manual 5-42), Deep Air Support says DAS is “air action against enemy targets at such a distance from friendly forces that detailed integration of each mission with fire movement of friendly forces is not required.”

FMFM 5-41, Close Air Support and Close-in Fire Support, says CAS is air delivery of ordnance in close proximity of friendly ground forces, requiring coordination with the fire and movement of those forces.

Close Air Support could be as close as 40m - 400 from friendlies (“Danger Close”), or as far away as a few kilometers, depending on the manueverability of the friendly forces.

I also seem to recall that B-52’s did some spooky stuff in Cambodia when the Americans “Weren’t There”. Advisors were killed (injured?) by bombs and had to be spirited away.
Sorry, it’s been a long time.

Why B-52s can do CAS now – GPS and lasers.

Guy On Ground uses GPS to get target coordinates. I think he does that with a laser.

Calls up B-52, gives the B-52 the desired target point. B-52 programs GPS-guided JDAM, releases bomb. Bomb hits desired point. Sure, it ain’t going to work on moving targets, but it works on people/things that aren’t moving.

In Vietnam and previous conflicts, unguided munitions were dropped a ways away from ground troops. That was air support, but the idea was to make it happen a safe distance away (which didn’t always happen).

There are still problems with this new style of CAS though – in Afghanistan US troops were killed when the bomb was called down on their own position due to battery replacement resetting the GPS’s coordinates.

It appears as if the BUFF’s primary advantage is its enormous loitering capability. Because it’s comparatively fast, a single B-52 can be only minutes away from troops stationed hundreds of miles from one another, for up to twelve hours at a time.

But it’s still high-altitude close air-support, and that can still be dangerous to friend and foe alike. Three US servicemen were killed about a year ago by an errant bomb dropped by a B-52.

It happened because the fire control person “aimed” the bombs at them. It was not an errant bomb; it hit were it was supposed to.

Ah, my bad. The article I linked to up there was published just after the incident.

So tell me, how many JDAMs can a B-52 carry, and can they be individually dropped? Anyone care to venture a guess as to its CEP?

The fact that a B52 was nearby when the US forces needed them tells us that the USAF is keeping a whole bunch of B52’s flying back and forth from Diego Garcia to Afghanistan. That’s got to be costing the taxpayer a pretty penny. You can also imagine the monotony for the aircrews… Fly many hours to get to Afghanistan, fly around in circles for more hours doing nothing, fly back to Diego Garcia, get some sleep, wake up and repeat. And keep doing that for month after month after month.

The B-52 can carry 12 JDAMs. They are a group of weapons, from 250# to 2000#, which are essentially dumb bombs with a strapon.

Dunno about releasing one at a time, or the Effect Casualty Radius. CEP is 13m in original version, 3m in PIP II.

I think they do carpet bomb. IIRC we did so against Al Queda in Afghanistan. Precision bombing didn’t seem to be getting the job done so several carpet bombing runs were authorized. Apparently there is quite a psychological effect to be had being in close proximity to a flight of B-52’s unloading on you. Those that aren’t killed outright tend to be less willing to fcae such a thing in the future and the ‘will to fight’ evaporates. Again, IIRC, the carpet bombing worked and the situation improved for the US after this.

Yes, BUFFs were called in for close ground support during the Vietnam non-war. Sometimes, anything is better than being taken prisoner.

“Don’t hit anything within 10 meters of my purple smoke, over.”