LANGLEY AFB, VA – On June 27, F-22 Raptors from the 1st FW, 27th FS deployed to Al Udeid AB in Qatar, from Langley AFB in Virginia. Nearly a dozen F-22s deployed to Qatar for the first time in order to defend American forces and interests in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, due to ongoing tensions with Iran.
As a response to unspecified threats from Iran – earlier this year – the Pentagon already sent B-52 bombers to the Middle East in May. The B-52s flew a series of patrols over the Persian Gulf, accompanied by F-15Cs, as well as F-35s. The USAF F-35s deployed to the Middle East in April, and conducted its first combat mission in Iraq om April 30.
On June 19, a U.S. Navy RQ-4 Global Hawk – worth more than $100 million – was shot down by Iran. Iran said the drone had violated its airspace. Iranian leaders also said they had exercised restraint by not shooting down a U.S. Navy P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft flying in the region. According to U.S. Central Command officials, neither the RQ-4 nor P-8 entered Iranian airspace that day, but added that U.S. aircraft routinely operate in the region.
This is not the first time the USAF F-22s have been in the Middle East. In recent past they were stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. The Raptors had been part of the air campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria since the fight began in 2014. The Raptors returned to the U.S. last fall, and were replaced by USAF F-15C Eagles, earlier this year.
Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said in Washington, D.C. last week: “Yes, we’re continuing to fly. We continue to fly where we need to, when we need to be there and as we do in all scenarios.”
(Top photo: USAF Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson)