As the fight for Mosul enters its final and likely bloodiest stage, coalition airpower is stacked high above the city delivering precision air support. The hardest hitting weapon in the coalition's forward-deployed arsenal is the B-52H Stratofortress, which, like the B-1Bs before them, have provided a massive weapons magazine in the sky that can orbit for hours on end and provide precision attacks as well as limited surveillance.
We have seen "BUFFs" lugging deep penetrating 2,000-pound BLU-118 munitions with GPS guided GBU-31 JDAM tail kits attached to Iraqi in recent months. Obviously, ISIS does not have the ability to build high-end hardened bunkers or other elaborate fortified structures, but they do commandeer large and robust existing buildings, including bunkers and high-rises, and are known to build complex tunnel networks. These weapons are adept at taking down these types of targets. The deep-penetrating BLU-118 munition, when paired with proper fusing, can also have unique blast effects against soft targets, in some cases limiting damage to nearby structures and bystanders. With all this in mind, you can see why these are very likely the weapons dropped from a B-52H in the video below. The building targeted is violently but surgically destroyed via multiple deep-burrowing, highly precise JDAM strikes:
The building seen struck in the FLIR video was the Ashur Hotel—supposedly once one of Mosul's largest and nicest hotels—that is before ISIS converted it into a private citadel. It was right along the leading edge of the battle lines on March 10th when it was struck. Four days later the area was declared under Iraqi security forces control. But even now, some ten days after it was destroyed, it is just behind the forward edge of the fighting.
The images coming out of Mosul are stunning. The city looks totally destroyed after years of ISIS occupation, coalition airstrikes and street battles. Now add the Ashur Hotel to the list of buildings in Mosul that will never be habitable again, although it was necessary work that few airplanes aside from the B-52 could handle alone. Meanwhile, ISIS holds on...at least for time being.
Contact the author: Tyler@thedrive.com