U.S. bombers begin exercises in Gulf

Friday, February 28, 2003

ABU DHABI The United States has launched exercises of its B-52 bomber fleet in the Persian Gulf as the military bolsters its forces near the Iraqi border.

U.S. Central Command said training flights of the B-52 Stratofortress began in the northern Gulf region. The B-52 can be equipped with nuclear weapons and is capable of launching cruise missiles and precision-guided bombs.

The command did not say how many B-52s were in the Gulf region. The bomber has a range of more than 14,000 kilometers and delivered 40 percent of all ordance dropped on Iraqi forces during the 1991 war.

"The missions will be conducted on a recurring basis and are designed to maintain aircrew proficiency and familiarization," Central Command said in a statement.

On Tuesday, U.S. warplanes bombed an Iraqi surface-to-surface missile battery in Iraq. No further details were immediately available.

In Kuwait, about 6,000 U.S. Marines from the 1st Marine Division arrived by ship to complete the ground forces planned for an invasion of neighboring Iraq. The troops were taken from Kuwait by helicopter north to the Iraqi border.

Earlier, the 2nd Marine Division, which includes mechanized infantry, arrived in Kuwait. There are more than 70,000 U.S. troops in Kuwait. On Tuesday, a U.S. Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed in an early-morning mission near Kuwait City. The army said all four crew members were killed.

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