U.S. Central Command confirmed Tuesday that bombers headed to the Middle East will be B-52s as it sought to clarify plans to deploy a carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the region days after national security advisor John BoltonJohn BoltonOvernight Defense & National Security — Milley becomes lightning rod Joint Chiefs Chairman Milley becomes lightning rod on right Ex-Trump adviser Bolton defends Milley: 'His patriotism is unquestioned' MORE announced the move.
“We continue to closely monitor the activities of the regime in Iran, their military, the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps], and their proxies, and we are well postured to defend U.S. forces and interests,” Central Command (Centcom) spokesman Capt. Bill Urban said in a statement released by the Pentagon. “The deployment of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force are considered prudent steps to protect U.S. forces and interests in the region and to deter any aggression.”
On Sunday night, Bolton said the USS Abraham Lincoln strike group and a bomber task force are deploying to the Centcom region “to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force” in response to unspecified “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” from Iran.
U.S. carrier groups and bombers often rotate in and out of the region, and the Lincoln’s deployment around the world was first announced by the Navy in early April.
B-52s, for example, have switched off deployments to the region with B-1s, with the B-52s last there in 2018.
Those factors have led to questions about whether the Trump administration was using a routine deployment to bolster tough-on-Iran messaging.
In Tuesday’s statement, presented as a Q&A, Urban confirmed the Lincoln’s deployment was previously “expected to include a significant amount of time” in Central Command.
But, Urban added, the deployment to the area is now “expected ahead of its original schedule and is in response to credible threats in the CENTCOM region.”
In line with the expedited arrival in the Middle East, the Lincoln’s previously planned port visit Split, Croatia has been canceled, U.S. European Command spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Joe Hontz said in a statement released with Urban’s.
Urban would not elaborate on what made the threats credible, but said Centcom requested more forces after “recent and clear indications that Iranian and Iranian proxy forces were making preparations to possibly attack U.S. forces in the region.”
The threats were both maritime and on land, he said.
“We are not going to be able to provide detailed information on specific threats at this time,” he said.
Urban would not say where in the Middle East the Lincoln will go to, only that the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command will choose a position that “will best be able to protect U.S. forces and interests in the region and to deter any aggression.”
Urban would also not provide a specific timeline for the ship’s transit to the region.
As for the bomber, Urban said they “will be tasked to protect U.S. forces and interests in the region and to deter any aggression.”