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War by air: the hardware: from bombers to missiles, the U.S. military arsenal has major tools of battle targeted at Afghanistan.

* B-52 STRATOFORTTRESS

A long-range bomber with a crew of five, the B-52 is capable of dropping or launching a wider array of U.S. weapons than any other plane. It can carry up to 70,000 pounds of bombs, including up to 20 precision-guided cruise missiles. The B-52, which has been in use since 1954, can fly at 650 mph and at altitudes up to 50,000 feet--higher than commercial aircraft. Since the B52 can be refueled in flight, its range is virtually unlimited.

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* B-1B LANCER

With its crew of four, the B-1B is capable of flying intercontinental missions without needing to refuel. It's also one of the fastest bombers in the U.S. arsenal, able to hit speeds of more than 900 mph. It is equipped with a Global Positioning System, a satellite navigational tool that allows it to track enemies, steer precisely toward targets, and map terrain without ground communication. The B-1B holds several world records for speed, payload, and distance.

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* B-2 SPIRIT

Sleek and sly, the two-person B-2 is the world's most expensive aircraft, costing $2.2 billion each. Prepared to deliver high-explosive or nuclear munitions at a moment's notice, the B-2 has massive firepower. It also has stealth features--technologies that make it less detectable by radar--which give it greater freedom to maneuver and attack in secret. But there have been problems with its radar-absorbing skin, which can be damaged by moisture and bad weather.

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* C-17 GLOBEMASTER III

The C-17, with a crew of three, is used to deliver material like bread, not bombs. It is a cargo and troop transport, able to carry a load of up to 170,000 pounds. On their first humanitarian aid missions in Afghanistan, two C-17's airdropped 37,500 food packets to displaced civilians. The C-17 is 174 feet long, but in spite of its bulk, can safely take off and land on relatively short, narrow runways, allowing for maximum flexibility.

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* F/A-18 HORNET

Launched from Navy carriers, the F/A-18 is an all-weather fighter and attack plane, used for air-to-ground strikes and reconnaissance, or spying missions. With wings that adjust for both high-and low-speed flight and offering night-vision capabilities, the F/A-18 can be adapted to a host of military strategies. This one- or two-person fighter is especially durable and can take a beating, capable of recovering quickly from hits by surface-to-air missiles.

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* CRUISE MISSILES

Cruise missiles are sophisticated flying bombs that can be fired from planes, ships, or submarines. The Tomahawk cruise missile is especially powerful. Weighing 2,900 pounds, it flies at about 550 mph and can maneuver at extremely low altitude. It uses a sophisticated Global Positioning System to reach its target with extreme accuracy. It has become the weapon of choice for a Defense Department eager to minimize U.S. casualties.

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Article Details
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Publication:New York Times Upfront
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 12, 2001
Words:477
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Next Article:The agony of Afghanistan: no music, no TV, no dancing--and that's just the beginning of the hardships of life under the Taliban. (International).
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