Major news alert!
F-22 stealth fighters were just deployed and are heading to Qatar, amid increasing tensions with Iran.
CNN reports the following:
The United States Air Force has dispatched top-of-the-line F-22 stealth fighters to Qatar for the first time as it beefs up its forces in the Middle East amid escalating tensions with Iran.
A statement and photos from US Air Forces Central Command said the stealth jets arrived at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar on Thursday. The Air Force did not give the total number of F-22s deployed, but a handout picture showed at least five the warplanes over the base.
"These aircraft are deployed to Qatar for the first time in order to defend American forces and interests in the US Central Command area of responsibility," the Air Force said.
The F-22 movement comes a week after an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down a US droneover the Strait of Hormuz. Iran said the drone was in its airspace, but Washington claims it was over international waters.
Defense analyst Peter Layton, a former Australian Air Force officer now with the Griffith Asia Institute, says the likely mission of the F-22s in the event of full-scale hostilities with Iran would be targeting Tehran's surface-to-air missile batteries, especially the S-300 system, its best air defense.
"The S-300 batteries would be the first target of the first wave to thereby open up airspace for following attacks" by other less stealthy US aircraft, Layton said.
In that sense, the presence of the F-22s is a strong deterrent to any further escalation in tensions by Iran, said Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command's Joint Intelligence Center.
"It means (the US) is looking to stop something, not to initiate something," he said.
The downing of the US drone was just the latest in a series of provocations between the US and Iran. The US has also blamed Iran for explosions on two oil tankers this month near the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world's most vital strategic shipping routes, as well as on four commercial ships off the coast of the United Arab Emirates last month. Iran has categorically denied responsibility for the ship attacks.
Following the attacks Washington moved around 2,000 troops, an aircraft carrier strike group and B-52 bombers to the region. The F-22s are the latest additions to that buildup.
The twin-engine F-22 can be configured for air-to-air or air-to-ground missions.
And from the Times of Israel:
The US has deployed F-22 stealth fighters to Qatar for the first time, its military said Friday, adding to a buildup of US forces in the Gulf amid tensions with Iran.
The Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighters have been deployed “to defend American forces and interests,” the US Air Forces Central Military Command said in a statement that did not specify how many of the hi-tech planes had been sent.
A photo handout showed five of the jets flying above the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
Tehran and Washington have been locked in an escalating standoff since US President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew from a multi-party 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimposed sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
Tensions spiked last week when Iran shot down a US drone over sensitive Gulf waters following a series of tanker attacks that Washington blamed on Tehran, which has denied involvement.
Since then the arch-foes have been locked in a war of words, which escalated this week when Trump announced new sanctions against Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Iran has threatened to abandon some of its commitments under the nuclear deal unless the remaining partners — Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia — help it circumvent US sanctions and especially sell its oil.