The Afghan Taliban has claimed the downing of a U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress heavy bomber in the Washir district of Helmand Province, killing all crew.
Taliban* militants have claimed they shot down a US B-52 heavy bomber, Syrian news site Muraselon reports.
The incident purportedly took place when the aircraft was departing from the Shawrab Airbase in southern Afghanistan in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
“Mujaheddin (a militia fighter) of the Islamic Emirate targeted a US B-52 bomber with heavy weapons today early morning in Lar area in the Washir district of Helmand Province,” a spokesman for the Taliban was quoted as saying.
The B-52 is said to have crashed after the strike, killing all of its crew. Both Afghan and US authorities are yet to comment on the matter.
استهدف مجاهدو الإمارة الإسلامية قاذفة أمريكية من نوع B52 بنيران الأسلحة الثقيلة صباح اليوم في منطقة "لر" بمديرية واشير في ولاية #هلمند جنوب #أفغانستان.
سقطت القاذفة واحترقت وقتل كامل طاقمها ولا زال الدخان يتصاعد منها.
— الإمارة الإسلامية (@alemara_ar) April 10, 2019
A Non-official Twitter page deny Taliban claims and accuse the Taliban of spreading lies. Page claims that Taliban are confusing an unarmed drone with B-52. Yesterday a United States Air Force drone crashes in Helmand province of Afghanistan. You can see incident details here: Link
— افغان نیشنل آرمی (@Subhan92704468) April 10, 2019
On 8 April, three US service members were killed in a car bomb attack on a convoy near the Bagram Air Force Base in north-eastern Afghanistan. The terror group claimed responsibility for the bombing. You can see incident details here: Link
Should this be verified, it marks one of the greatest U.S. military losses of the 21st Century and the only loss of a heavy bomber in combat.
The Taliban’s claims have yet to be verified, but would be unprecedented if true.
The attack comes just two days after strikes on a U.S. military convoy which killed three service members near Bagram Air Force Base, and is part of a growing resurgence in Taliban warfighting capabilities which has seen the group deploy ever more advanced munitions and complex tactics – from night vision equipment to anti aircraft artillery.
The United States for its part has repeatedly blamed Pakistan, Iran, and Russia for backing the group, all of which have denied any support for the Taliban war effort.
The B-52H is the most advanced variant of the Stratofortress, a design which is considered in many ways to be the most capable Western bomber ever designed.
The aircraft combines a high payload of advanced standoff munitions, capable of striking targets at extreme ranges of several thousand kilometres, with simplicity, reliability, durability and very low maintenance requirements.
The B-52H for its part is not designed to operate within short or intermediate ranges of modern missile attacks and heavily emphasizes striking enemy targets with missiles such as the AGM-86 at extreme ranges for precisely this reason.
More recently, the state of the art electronic warfare systems has been integrated to provide greater survivability against missile attacks.
These factors draw the Taliban’s claim in to question – as downing the bomber would require either a direct hit on the fuselage or the destruction of multiple engines – all while bypassing its electronic defences should missiles be used. The U.S. and the Afghan government have yet to comment on the incident.