U.S. Air Force flies B-52H Stratofortress bomber off the Somalian coast

A United States Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bomber was seen flying low near the Somali island of Koyama. According to photographs (taken by a local Abdishukri Haybe), which surfaced on social media, it shows that the B-52H bomber appeared at around 2:30 PM local time near a small village on the west side of Koyama island, one mile from the Somali mainland.

While the Koyama Island where the Stratofortress bomber was spotted is approximately 85 miles northeast of the Kenyan border and some 25 miles southwest of Kismayo, the largest city in Somalia’s semi-independent Jubaland region.

The low-level flight of the B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber could be attributed to a renewed show of force to Al Shabaab which has intensified its attacks in the region.

On 5 January, this year, the Al Shabaab terror group launched a deadly attack against Manda Bay, a U.S. airstrip housing several military personnel and contractors as well as Camp Simba, another forward operating base also in the area. The terror attack killed one U.S. military servicemember and two American contractors and destroying at least six fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. 

However, prior to the B-52 Stratofortress Bomber flight in the Horn of Africa, the Pentagon deployed six bombers to Diego Garcia, a U.S. military outpost in the Indian Ocean, following hostility and potential hostility with Iran. This is likely the take-off point for the bombers, as it is 3,220 km from the Somali coastline.

This flight demonstrates the B-52H Strategic Bomber’s “global reach” capability, — a B-52 bomber has a range of 14,162 km at a speed of 1,046 km/hr.

Diego Garcia to Somalia is just 3,220 km (Map data by Google)

Moreover, just a few days ago, the U.S. Army General Stephen Townsend, head of U.S. Africa Command, visited Jubaland and, together with U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Donald Yamamoto, met with its President Ahmed Mohamed Islam Madobe, where they discussed issues including the current affairs of the country and the fight against Al Shabaab. 

“I commended Jubaland President Madobe for coordinated operations by the Jubaland Security Force, Danab, and Somali National Army that have struck at al-Shabaab in the Juba River Valley,” Yamamoto said in a statement. “These operations are a model of cooperation between the national government and effective state security forces that the United States seeks to support throughout Somalia. We call on the Federal Government and all Member States to work constructively together to fight our common enemy al-Shabaab.”  

Regarding the B-52H bomber sortie over the Horn of Africa, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) posted a statement on Twitter acknowledging the flight. The statement reads: “In concert with partners, A B-52 training mission occurred in East Africa. This long-range, unarmed training mission showcases the global reach and agility of U.S. forces. It also reflects our versatility and continued commitment to our partners.”

This is not the first time a B-52 Stratofortress bomber is conducting a flight over the African continent, similarly, in 2016, as part of exercise “Just Hammer“, a B-52 bomber flew a mock mission from RAF Fairford and overflew the Northern part of Africa.

Patrick Kenyette

Freelance journalist and Photographer, and regular African Military Blog contributor

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