The US Air Force’s (USAF) B-52 Stratofortress bombers were tested as part of a week-long air-to-ground combat training exercise code-named, Combat Hammer, at Minot Air Force Base, US.

The testing witnessed B-52Hs from the 69th Bomb Squadron drop laser-guided GBU-12 and GPS-guided GBU-38 bombs on moving targets at the Eglin Test and Training Complex Range at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, US.

The testing was aimed to evaluate the reliability and efficiency of existing combat weapons systems while also assessing the USAF’s air-to-ground munitions programme.

USAF 5th Operations Support Squadron Chief of Wing Scheduling major Ryan Cox said: "We exercise to ensure we are able to hit a target that the Air Force tells us to hit, with weapons they tell us to use, at a time they want it to be hit.

"The exercise evaluates everything from building the bomb, to loading the bomb, to planning the sortie, to dropping the weapon, to hitting the target.

"Exercises like Combat Hammer give the Air Force metrics on how well the weapon works, as well as how well the operations group and maintenance group work together to get the weapon onto the target."

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The B-52 bomber is a long-range, subsonic, strategic bomber designed to carry and fire both nuclear and conventional munitions for deterrence missions.

The aircraft entered service with the USAF in 1955, and is also operated by the US Navy for anti-surface and submarine warfare operations.

The air-to-air and air-to-ground weapon system evaluation programmes are conducted during the tactical delivery of fighter, bomber and unmanned aircraft system precision guided munitions.

The USAF plans to conduct a weapon system evaluation programme at its 23rd Bomb Squadron later this year. However, the style of execution of the programme might differ depending on exercise objectives and the security environment.

Image: A B-52H Stratofortress takes off during Exercise Combat Hammer at Minot Air Force Base (AFB). Photo: courtesy of US Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class J.T. Armstrong.