The Air Force has reportedly begun rotating a squadron of F-22 Raptors to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. UAE is directly to the south of the Iranian coastline, separated by the Straits of Hormuz.
Aviation Week first reported the details of the Raptor deployments.
Air Force spokesman Capt. Phil Ventura would not confirm the Raptor was headed to Al Dhafra, but said the next-generation fighter jets were en route to a deployment somewhere in Southwest Asia.
“Such deployments strengthen military-to-military relationships, promote sovereign and regional security, improve combined tactical air operations and enhance interoperability of forces, equipment and procedures," he told Aviation Week on Thursday.
If true, the Raptor deployments are only the latest instance of what could be seen as a burgeoning military buildup in the Persian Gulf region.
The Navy has doubled the number of mine-hunting ships patrolling the Straits, which is the only entry point for military and commercial vessels heading for the Persian Gulf, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told reporters in March.
Service leaders have also begun outfitting U.S. destroyers and cruisers in the Persian Gulf fleet with powerful Gatling guns.The weapons are ideal for taking out the small, fast-moving patrol boats the Iranian navy commonly uses to patrol the Straits.
Aside from that buildup, House Republicans are crafting legislation to funnel DOD dollars into weapons and equipment that would be key in waging a military conflict against Iran.
“We are doing what we can to make sure [the United States] is protected … and that is what we are going to do,” House Armed Services Committee chief Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told reporters during a March 21 briefing on Capitol Hill.
Last Wednesday, Tehran announced that a number of areas in the Persian Gulf would be off limits to U.S. warships in the region, and would treat any incursion into those waters as threat to Iran.
"We have warned [foreign naval forces] before that some areas in the Persian Gulf are considered by us as zones of threat and they should not stop in those areas," Major General Ataollah Salehi, commander of the Iranian Army, told the state-run Fars News Agency.
Tehran set off a seemingly dangerous game of one-upmanship with Washington and its allies when it threatened to take control of the Straits in January.
Weeks of diplomatic saber-rattling between the two countries eventually forced Iran to back off, but not before it banned U.S. Navy warships from entering the waterway.