The 23rd Bomb Squadron “Barons” and other USAF support personnel are deploying to the Middle East.  The deployment marks the first time in twelve years that B-52 bombers from Minot Air Force Base will deploy to the Middle East.

The squadron members have been going through extensive training in preparation for the deployment, Minot base officials told Minot Daily News.

The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range strategic bomber that has received multiple upgrades throughout its lifetime and continues to be used as a heavy bomber.  They are among the oldest aircraft operated by the US Air Force, with 76 of them remaining in inventory, despite being more than 50 years old.

At the beginning of the year, a B-52 from the base lost one of its eight engines while conducting a routine training flight.  The engine broke up and debris landed in an unpopulated area 25 nautical miles northeast of Minot.

The Minot-based B-52’s will replace the B-52 aircraft from Barksdale Air Force Base, which deployed to Qatar’s al-Udeid Air Base just under a year ago.  The aircraft from Barksdale were the first B-52 bombers to be based in the region since the 1991 Gulf War, when they operated from neighboring Saudi Arabia.

The aircraft have been part of the multinational coalition carrying out airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Syria and Iraq.

“The B-52s are heavily engaged in bringing the fight to the enemy,” Col. David Ballew, vice commander of the 5th Bomb Wing, told members of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce at a meeting in Minot, Thursday.

A group from the unit has already deployed in advance to set up in preparation for combat operations.

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