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The U.S. military will use B-1 bombers — not A-10s — to provide Iraqi security forces with close air support as they make their final push into Ramadi from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a military spokesman said Thursday.
"We've got B-1s in this fight, and when we find obstacles that we know we can hit, we'll strike them from the air as well to try and disable them," Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said on CNN's "New Day" on Thursday.
He said they were being used due to its long loiter time, its ability to hold lots of munitions and "extraordinary precision." The B-1 is able to hold 84 500lb general-purpose bombs, and loiter up to 10 hours without a single refueling.
"B-1s are evolving into a very effective close air support platform," he said.
In addition, he said they are "much less" vulnerable than the A-10 attack jets, which were employed in Iraq and Afghanistan to support ground troops in battle.
A-10s are not being used in the offensive at the moment, he said, but it's not clear why.
One reason may be that some believe that B-1s are more precise than A-10s. The Obama administration has been concerned with inflicting civilian casualties throughout the yearlong war against ISIS, insisting that the rules of engagement are more restrictive than what is required under the law of war.
On Thursday, CNN reported that "national security officials are having initial, internal discussions about whether changes are needed" to the rules of engagement for airstrikes over Iraq and Syria.
"There are no formal proposals, and no immediate decisions expected," an official told CNN.
"We have to find this right balance between achieving military effects, and how much collateral damage we're willing to accept," Warren said. "This is a continuous discussion. ... It's a daily thing."
On Wednesday near Ramadi, five coalition airstrikes struck two ISIS tactical units; destroyed a fighting position; five command and control nodes; a tactical vehicle; a "bed-down" location; an artillery site; cratered five ISIS-used roads' and denied ISIS access to terrain, according to U.S. Central Command.