USAF F-35 fighters deploy to Middle East amid tensions with Iran and Russia

U.S. Air Force photo

A squadron of United States Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter jets has recently deployed to the Middle East to reinforce air capabilities in the US Central Command Area of Responsibility. 

“In coordination with our regional allies, partners and the U.S. Navy, the F-35’s will partner with A-10 and F-16s already in theater helping monitor the Strait of Hormuz,” the Ninth Air Force said in a statement. “The F-35’s increased capacity and capability will allow the U.S. to fly in contested airspace across the theater if required.” 

The aircraft deployed belong to the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Hill Air Force Base in Utah. The number of fighters, the length, and the precise locations of the deployment were not disclosed. 

Double pressure in the Middle East

The US Department of Defense aims to bolster its presence in the region after two alleged attempts by the Iranian Navy to seize commercial tankers.  

On July 5, 2023, the US Naval Forces Central Command reported that the Iranian Navy attempted to illegally seize two merchant vessels in the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman. Both incidents occurred in international waters.  

The United States and its allies have also reported an increase in reckless and aggressive Russian air force behavior in the Middle East, a phenomenon that AFCENT suggested could be a compensatory strategy linked to the Ukraine crisis.  

On July 23, 2023, a Russian Su-35 fighter intercepted a USAF MQ-9 Reaper drone over Syria and damaged its propeller by releasing flares.  

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