The United States Air Force dispatched B-52 Stratofortress bombers to fly over the Gulf on Tuesday in an apparent effort to deter Tehran amid fears of a possible Iranian attack on US assets in the region.
US Central Command said that aircrews from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, made a “deliberate appearance” in the Middle East to underscore America’s commitment to regional security, and the ability to rapidly deploy to the region as needed.
The veteran B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, heavy bomber that is capable of flying at high subsonic speeds and at altitudes of up to 50,000 feet. It can carry nuclear or precision-guided conventional ordnance with global reach precision navigation capability.
“The United States continues to deploy combat-ready capabilities into the US Central Command area of responsibility to deter any potential adversary, and make clear that we are ready and able to respond to any aggression directed at Americans or our interests,” said Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of US Central Command.
“We do not seek conflict, but no one should underestimate our ability to defend our forces or to act decisively in response to any attack.”
The bombers were refueled in the air over the Eastern Mediterranean by KC-135 tanker aircraft. They were spotted near Gibraltar as they flew to their rendezvous point off Cyprus.
The B-52s’ 30-hour round-trip mission was carried out by at least two of the giant aircrafts.
This was the third such strategic bomber deployment into CENTCOM’s area of operation in the last 45 days.
The US has sent B-52s to the region in the last months as tensions grow with Iran, and their presence is seen as sending a message to Tehran.
Iran has threatened the US and Israel over the last year, especially in the wake of the US’s killing of IRGC Quds Force head Qasem Soleimani in January.
Iran has warned in the past about the US deploying B-52s to the region and considers them part of a heightened series of US moves. In turn, the US has warned Iranian-backed militias against firing rockets at the US Embassy in Baghdad