BOMBERS: The Iraqi Airforce was a no-show, and the Iraqi anti-aircraft systems have been nearly completely shut down. Coalition forces have total air supremacy... now what? Bombers, that's what. Let's look at the three main types of bombers that the US uses.
B-52 -- The last of the 102 B-52H's currently in service was delivered to the USAF in 1962, and is expected to last until 2037; a 75 year service life. The B-52 has been the backbone of US bombarbment capability since the Vietnam War, and has been one of the three prongs of US nuclear deterrence (the other two being nuclear-armed subs and ICBMs). B-52s can fly as high as 50,000 feet (out of range of most surface-to-air weapons) at up to 650 mph; they have a range of more than 8,800 miles without mid-air refueling, and essentially unlimited range with refueling. A single B-52 can carry up to 70,000 pounds of munitions, including JDAMs and cruise missiles.
B-52 Image Gallery
B-1B -- The B-1 flies at a lower altitude than the B-52 (over 30,000 ft. ceiling), and carries fewer munitions (still more than 60,000 pounds), but can fly at supersonic speeds and "holds several world records for speed, payload and distance." With a range of over 7,500 miles the B-1 is close to the B-52, but can move more quickly and has a much smaller radar signature and advanced electronic countermeasures that greatly increase its survivability.
B-1B Image Gallery
B-2 -- The B-2 Spirit, also known as the "stealth bomber", is the most recent addition to the US bomber force. Its stealth characteristics and high aerodynamic efficiency make it harder to detect and attack than other bombers, and its high payload capacity allows the B-2 to pack quite a punch. Like the B-52 it is subsonic (essential for stealth, to avoid sonic booms), and it has a range of over 6,000 miles. In 1987 the USAF ordered 132 B-2s, but with the end of the Cold War and the fragmentation of the USSR, this number was reduced to 21; because of this drastically shortened production run, the cost-per-unit skyrocketed to $2.1 billion each.
B-2 Image Gallery
The future: HyperSoar -- The HyperSoar concept represents the potential future of bomber design. Flying 6,700 mph at an altitude of 130,000 ft., the HyperSoar would "skip" in and out of the atmosphere and be able to deliver its payload to any location on the globe. Crazy stuff, but more economical than ICBMs if the concept can be made to work.