Widgets Magazine
MIGHTY TRENDING
Ryan Pickrell

US Air Force F-22 stealth fighters return to the Middle East

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)

US F-22 stealth fighters have returned to the Middle East to "defend American forces and interests" at a time of high tension with Iran, although it is unclear whether the advanced air superiority fighters have been deployed as part of the ongoing deterrence mission or for some other purpose.

An unspecified number of US Air Force F-22 Raptors arrived in the US Central Command area of responsibility June 27, 2019, flying into Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) said in a statement June 28, 2019.


A U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor arrives at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 27, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)

This is the first time these fifth-generation fighters have flown into Qatar, as they have previously operated out of Al Dhafra in the United Arab Emirates, where a collection of US Air Force F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are currently deployed.

The Aviationist's David Cenciotti, citing sources, reported that nine F-22s with the 192nd Fighter Wing, Virginia Air National Guard at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia have flown into the region with at least three more expected to follow at a later point in time.

Photos of the aircraft flying in formation showed at least five fighters.

F-22s flying in formation in the Middle East.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Gardner)

The US Air Force deployed F-15C Eagles to the Middle East in early 2019 to replace F-22s after years of regular deployments to the region.

"There are currently no F-22s deployed to AFCENT, but the United States Air Force has deployed F-15Cs to Southwest Asia," AFCENT told Air Force Magazine in March. "US Air Force aircraft routinely rotate in and out of theater to fulfill operational requirements, maintain air superiority, and protect forces on the ground."

But now these unmatched air assets are back in the region, and their arrival, likely part of a routine deployment, comes as US troops, weapons, and equipment are increasingly moving into the CENTCOM area of responsibility to deter possible Iranian aggression.

F-22s in Qatar.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)

As sanctions crippled the Iranian economy, intelligence reports pointing to the possibility of Iranian attacks led the US military to send the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East to confront Iran.

Those assets were followed by more naval vessels, air-and-missile defense batteries, and thousands of additional troops.

In June 2019, Iranian forces shot down a US Navy drone, a serious escalation in the wake of a string of attacks on tankers, allegedly the work of Iranian forces.

F-22 in Qatar.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)

Although the US was prepared to retaliate with airstrikes on Iranian positions, President Donald Trump said he called off the attack at the last minute, arguing that taking life in response to an attack on an unmanned system would be a disproportionate.

But after Iranian leadership issued a statement insulting the White House, Trump changed his tune. "Any attack by Iran on anything American will be met with great and overwhelming force. In some areas, overwhelming will mean obliteration,' Trump tweeted.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.