Over the past weekend, a pair of United States Air Force B-52 Stratofortress bombers took part in a patrol mission over the Middle East. It was the seventh mission into CENTCOM’s area of operation in the last four months and was the fourth-such bomber deployment to the region this year. Additionally, it was the second to be conducted since President Joe Biden took office in January.
From its official Twitter account, the United States Central Command (@CENTCOM) shared images of the bombers taking off from Minot Air Base in North Dakota. In a statement, USCENTCOM said the mission was “to deter aggression and reassure partners and allies of the U.S. military’s commitment to security in the region.”
USCENTCOM also confirmed that multiple partner nations and U.S. Air Force fighter aircraft accompanied the U.S. bombers at different points during the flight, including those of Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
The Israel Defense Force’s official Twitter account (@IDF) also shared images of the bombers being escorted and noted, “Today (Sunday), Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets escorted two American B-52 bombers through Israeli airspace. This flight is part of the joint strategic cooperation with US forces, which is pivotal in maintaining the security of Israeli and Middle Eastern skies.”
Whilst the United States military did not directly mention Iran in its statement, such flights had been common in the final months of former President Donald Trump’s administration and had been aimed to deter aggression from the Islamic Republic. President Biden has expressed a desire to return to the Iran nuclear deal, which Trump unilaterally withdrew from in 2018, but the Biden administration has made it clear that is only possible if Iran honors the deal’s limits on its nuclear program.
Whether the two sides can even get to the bargaining table is unclear as tensions remain high after militias in Iraq that are backed by Iran have continued to target American interests.
Following a previous flight to the region, the commander of USCENTCOM said the deployments are meant to underscore America’s commitment to regional security, as well as highlight the ability to rapidly deploy to the region as needed.
“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,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander, US Central Command, said in a release as reported by The Jerusalem Post. “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.”
In addition to sending the Cold War-era B-52s to the Persian Gulf, the United States Air Force has deployed the bombers to Guam to act as a deterrent to China, and to Europe as a deterrent to Russia. In August 2020, six B-52 bombers took part in Allied Sky, a single-day mission over thirty NATO nations while escorted by partner aircraft. The mission was intended to demonstrate NATO solidarity, enhance readiness and provide training opportunities that were aimed at enhancing interoperability for all participating aircrews from the U.S. and NATO allies.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.