A strange sight appeared in the skies over Israel on Sunday: two huge B-52 long-range bombers accompanied by Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets.
US Central Command (CENTCOM) said the mission over the Middle East was designed to “deter aggression and reassure partners and allies.”
“A pair of U.S. Air Force B-52H “Stratofortresses” flew a multinational patrol mission across the Middle East today to deter aggression and reassure partners and allies of the U.S. military’s commitment to security in the region,” CENTCOM said in a statement. “Multiple partner nations and US Air Force fighter aircraft accompanied the US bombers at different points during the flight, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.”
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. pic.twitter.com/CViOa3LvBT
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) March 7, 2021
“Temporary long-range bomber deployments into the region dates back to 2015. This was the fourth bomber deployment into the Middle East this year,” the statement concluded.
It was the seventh such mission in the last four months and the second B-52 deployment in the region since Joe Biden became president. The new administration also ordered an airstrike last month near the Iraqi border in eastern Syria targeting Iranian-backed militia targets.
Though the CENTCOM statement did not explicitly mention Iran, the mission included flying over the Persian Gulf, putting it in close proximity to Iranian airspace. A recent attack on MV Helios Ray, an Israeli-owned commercial vehicle cargo ship, has been blamed on Iran.
At the same time, the Biden administration is in negotiations with the Iranian government concerning reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), an agreement that would greenlight an unrestricted Iranian nuclear weapons program in less than four years.
The two US Airforce jets flew round trip from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota. Built by Boeing, the B-52 Stratofortress is an American long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber capable of carrying up to 70,000 pounds of weapons and has a typical combat range of more than 8,800 miles without aerial refueling. Built in 1955 to carry nuclear weapons for Cold War-era deterrence, the bomber is designed for missions carrying nuclear payloads.