F-16 Fighting Falcons from the New Jersey Air National Guard’s 119th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron have deployed to U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, the Pentagon announced. The aircraft, which arrived on Tuesday, will enhance the defense of U.S. forces in the region.
Since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, militia groups backed by Iran have on more than a dozen occasions attacked U.S. forces conducting counterterrorism missions in Iraq and Syria. The F-16s are meant to deter any further strikes against U.S. targets.
“We know that the groups conducting these attacks are supported by the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and the Iranian regime,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a briefing earlier this week. “What we are seeing is the prospect for more significant escalation against U.S. forces and personnel across the region, in the very near term, coming from Iranian proxy forces and ultimately from Iran.”
U.S. Units On the Move
In the past week, the Department of Defense has deployed the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier strike group to CENTCOM, along with a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense battery from Fort Bliss, Texas. It also directed additional Patriot missile battalions from Fort Liberty, North Carolina, and Fort Sill, Oklahoma to the region.
“The New Jersey Air National Guard’s 119th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron arrived within U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, bolstering U.S. posture to defend U.S. forces and deter further aggression in the region,” U.S. Air Forces Central (AFCENT), the air component of CENTCOM, announced on X.
“The arrival of these Airmen strengthens our ability to support our allied, coalition, and regional partners as we work together to enhance regional stability and security,” AFCENT commander Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich said in a statement.
AFCENT currently operates three F-16 squadrons, two A-10 Thunderbolt II squadrons, and one F-15E Strike Eagle squadron, along with several strategic airlift, aerial refueling, and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance platforms.
Ukrainian Pilots Training on the F-16
The U.S. Air Force also confirmed on Wednesday that Ukrainian pilots have begun flight training on the F-16 with the 162nd Wing of the Arizona Air National Guard.
The flight training started after the pilots completed language training in San Antonio, Texas, the home of the Defense Language Institute English Language Center.
“The training curriculum will align with the foundational knowledge and skills of each pilot and is expected to last several months,” the Air Force said in a statement.
The Ukrainians will learn the basics of operating the Fighting Falcon in a classroom and on simulators before moving to the actual planes.
The Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway have pledged to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets at the conclusion of the training program.
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A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.
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