The United States has deployed F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets to Qatar for the first time, according to the US Air Forces Central Military Command on Friday.
The deployment, to the Al Udeid Air Base, a forward headquarters of U.S. Central Command and headquarters of U.S. Air Forces Central Command, is intended to “defend American forces and interests,” said officials in a statement. It was not stated how many of the jets were deployed.
The move augments the recent U.S. military build-up in the Middle East amid tensions with Iran. Several nuclear-capable bombers were deployed to the Gulf in May together with a U.S. carrier strike group after the U.S. Defense Department warned of a possible Iranian attack against American forces in the region.
Earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would deploy an additional 1,000 troops to the region. Just days later, on June 20 Iran shot down a U.S. Global Hawk unmanned spy drone over the Strait of Hormuz.
Tension between the United States and Iran has steadily increased since Trump accused Iran of failing to uphold its end of a 2015 nuclear deal brokered by former president Barack Obama, and withdrew from the agreement. He subsequently reimposed economic sanctions on the country and its leaders.
Last week, Israel, the US and UK air forces conducted a joint exercise involving F-35 fighter jets.