A pair of U.S. Air Force B-52H “Stratofortress” bombers flew over the Middle East on Sunday, days rocket attacks targeted U.S. troops in Iraq. Iran-backed Iraqi militias are suspected to have been behind the recent attack.
According to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) press statements, the two B-52s took off from Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and were accompanied by U.S. fighter jets as well as Israeli, Saudi Arabian, and Qatari aircraft throughout various stages of the mission.
“A pair of U.S. Air Force B-52H ‘Stratofortresses’ flew a multinational patrol mission across the #MiddleEast from @TeamMinot today to deter aggression and reassure partners and allies,” CENTCOM tweeted.
The Air Force said the mission was launched to “deter aggression and reassure partners and allies of the U.S. military’s commitment to security in the region.”
Deployments of these B-52s to the Middle East have often been used amid threats from Iran or attacks from Iranian proxy groups throughout the region.
This latest deployment comes after ten rockets were fired at the Al-Asad Airbase in Iraq, where U.S. and coalition troops are located. No troops were killed in the attack, but a U.S. contractor died from a cardiac incident while sheltering during the attack. The Iran-backed Kataeb Hezbollah militia is believed to have been behind the latest rocket attack as well as previous ones.
Sunday’s Middle East overflight is the fourth time B-52 bombers have deployed to the region so far this year.
According to an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) tweet, the U.S. B-52’s flew through Israeli airspace as part of their Middle East flight path. IDF shared photos of its aircraft escorting the U.S. B-52s.
“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,” the IDF said.
Israel has warned it is updating its target list and is preparing to attack Iran, alone if necessary, to prevent it from gaining nuclear weapons.
Along with escorts from U.S. and partner forces, the B-52s also received refueling support from KC-10 “Extender” aerial refueling aircraft operating in the region.