The US Air Force has started using its hulking B-52 bombers against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, but the enormous aircraft are only conducting precision strikes, a military spokesman said Wednesday.
The B-52 Stratofortress – originally designed in the 1950s – became a symbol of US might during the Cold War and the plane was used to conduct carpet bombing in Vietnam.
Colonel Steve Warren, a Baghdad-based spokesman, said a B-52 was sent Monday to destroy an ISIS weapons storage facility in the Iraqi town of Qayyarah, about 35 miles (60 kilometers) south of Mosul.
He said use of B-52s would not lead to a greater risk of civilian casualties because the aircraft are only being armed with guided bombs.
"There are memories in the collective unconscious of B-52s, decades ago, doing … arguably indiscriminate bombing," Warren said.
"Those days are long gone. The B-52 is a precision strike weapons platform and it will conduct the same type of precision strikes that we have seen for the last 20 months."
The B-52s are replacing B-1 bombers that had been operating in the region for the past year.
In October, the Air Force announced that Northrop Grumman will build its next-generation bomber, called the Long Range Strike Bomber.
The decades-long program will likely end up costing in excess of $100 billion and the new planes probably won't be deployed before the mid-2020s, ensuring the aging B-52 will stay in service for years to come.
The US military has since August 2014 led an international coalition in an air campaign against the IS group in Iraq and Syria after the jihadists captured vast areas of territory across the two countries.
AFP contributed this report.