The United States Air Force confirmed the arrival of F-22A Raptor planes at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates on February 12, 2022. This deployment follows recent attacks by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement.
On January 17, 2022, a drone attack carried out by the Houthis near Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) killed three civilians. On January 30, 2022, a ballistic missile was intercepted by UAE forces while Israeli President Isaac Herzog was on an official visit to Abu Dhabi.
The attacks, which also threatened US forces stationed at Al Dhafra Air Base, were condemned by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
On February 2, 2022, following a discussion with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Austin announced that the United States would deploy 5th generation fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates without specifying whether the fighters would be F-35 Lightning IIs or F-22 Raptors. The aircraft would be “a clear signal that the United States stands with the UAE as a long-standing strategic partner”.
The number of Raptors was not specified, though pictures seem to show at least 6 fighters on the runway of Al Dhafra.
“The Raptors’ presence will bolster already strong partner nation defenses and puts destabilizing forces on notice that the U.S. and our partners are committed to enabling peace and stability in the region,” said Lieutenant General Gregory Guillot, commander of the Ninth Air Force.
France also reiterated its commitment to support the UAE, using the seven Dassault Rafale fighters from the 1/7 Provence squadron based in Al Dhafra Air Base and the deployment of ground-air defense systems. In addition to a contingent of the USAF, Al Dhafra also houses an operational base for the French Air Force since 2008.