Nearly a dozen Air Force F-22 stealth fighters have been deployed to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, part of a force buildup requested by U.S. Central Command in May in response to what it called heightened Iranian threats against American forces in the region.

The Air Force arm of U.S. Central Command on Friday, June 28, said the F-22 Raptors arrived this week at Al Udeid Air Base to “defend American forces and interests.” It posted to its website photos of several F-22s arriving on Thursday and said this is the first time F-22s have deployed to Al Udeid, which is a hub for U.S. air operations in the Middle East.

US Air Forces Central Command also announced the news in a tweet.

F-22s, which carry air-to-air missiles and can perform ground-attack missions as well, had previously deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, where they were used last year in support of U.S. and partner forces in Syria.

According to military.com, a website specializing in military powers, “The F-22 Raptor is considered the first 5th-generation fighter in the U.S. Air Force inventory, using low observable technologies, modern avionics and efficient engines to offer an air superiority fighter unmatched by any other modern military.”

“The F-22 Raptor, a critical component of the Global Strike Task Force, is designed to project air dominance, rapidly and at great distances and defeat threats attempting to deny access to our nation’s Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The F-22 cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft,” according to military.com.

Four B-52 strategic bombers were deployed to Al Udeid days after a May 5 White House announcement that the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group was also being rushed to the region in response to “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” and as a “message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

The Pentagon also just sent an additional 1,000 troops to the Middle East about two weeks ago. Early in May, the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and a task force of B-52 bombers were deployed in response to possible attack threats by Iran against U.S. forces or interests in the region. Later that same month, an additional 1,500 troops were also sent to the area to continue to deter Iran.

At the request of Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of Central Command, additional Patriot air-and-missile defense systems were also sent to the Gulf region in recent weeks. He is also receiving additional surveillance and intelligence-gathering aircraft to improve the military’s ability to monitor potential Iranian threats against shipping in the Gulf area.

Last week, President Trump had called off air strikes against Iran that were in retaliation Iran for downing of an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone. Instead, additional sanctions are being imposed on Iran’s regime, including Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and other high ranking officials. 

Includes reporting from The Associated Press

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