USAF F-22 Raptors fly in formation as they prepare to land at Al Udeid AB, Qatar, on June 27, 2019. Air Force photo by SSgt. Ashley Gardner.
A contingent of F-22 Raptors have deployed to Al Udeid AB, Qatar, for the first time, as tensions mount between the United States and Iran.
“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,” states a release, showing at least five Raptors landing at Al Udeid on June 27.
The service has not said exactly how many F-22s have deployed to the region, what unit they are assigned to, or how long they will be deployed. A US Central Command Facebook post acknowledges that the posted photos have been altered and the tail flashes blurred, for “security purposes.” As of press time, AFCENT had not yet responded to Air Force Magazine’s request for additional details.
The deployment comes on the heels of the June 19 shootdown of a US Navy RQ-4 Global Hawk drone variant, increased US sanctions on Iran and its leadership in the wake of the attack, and reportedly deteriorating nuclear negotiations between the two nations.
On June 26, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told an AFA Mitchell Institute audience the service had no plans to halt its patrols over the Persian Gulf despite the June 19 incident, and that he didn’t anticipate major changes to the assets USAF operates in the area.
The US has been bolstering its presence in the Middle East for the last month. Four B-52 Stratofortresses also deployed to Al Udeid on May 20, as part of the initial build up in the region. Since then, the Air Force has deployed F-15E Strike Eagles from Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.; F-15C Eagles from RAF Lakenheath, England; and F-35 strike fighters from Hill AFB, Utah, to Al Dhafra AB, United Arab Emirates, in response to Iranian threats.