A USAF B-52 Stratofortress bomber assigned to the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron lands at Al Udeid AB, Qatar, April 8, 2018. Air National Guard photo by SSgt. Patrick Evenson.
Air Force B-52s will deploy to the US Central Command area of operations along with the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group in response to “recent and clear indications” that Iranian forces were preparing to possibly attack US forces, the Pentagon announced Tuesday.
Defense officials did not clarify how many B-52s would make up the task force, or which squadron they are from, in a Tuesday statement. The White House on Sunday said the task force and carrier deployment is a message to Iran that any attack on US forces or interests would be “met with unrelenting force.”
CENTCOM began developing a request for forces after receiving indications that Iran could attack, and it is continuing to track a “number of credible threat streams” coming from Iran. The Pentagon would not elaborate on the threats or how they were obtained. CENTCOM confirmed the Stratofortresses will deploy to the region in response to the threats, but declined to provide a more specific timeline.
“The Bomber Task Force will be tasked to protect US forces and interests in the region and to deter any aggression,” according to the statement.
The Abraham Lincoln was already scheduled to head to CENTCOM, and that plan was expedited by Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan in response to the command’s request.
The Air Force has had a constant presence of bombers, either B-52s or B-1s, deployed to Al Udeid AB, Qatar, for ongoing combat operations for nearly two decades. That ended in March, however, after B-1s returned home to Dyess AFB, Texas, following a combat deployment. Air Force Global Strike Command had said the bombers were “overextended” during the deployment.
B-52s recently returned to Barksdale AFB, La., from a Bomber Task Force deployment to Europe. Stratofortresses from Minot AFB, N.D., are also deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, for the Pacific continuous bomber presence.