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US Deploying Fighter Squadrons, Air Expeditionary Wing, Missile Defenses to Saudi Arabia

This story has been updated to include further comment from Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

The Pentagon is deploying two fighter squadrons and an air expeditionary wing to Saudi Arabia, along with two Patriot Missile defense batteries and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, following reported Iran-backed attacks on that country.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley announced the deployment during an Oct. 11 briefing, saying the deployment was at the request of US Central Command. This deployment, along with others that were recently approved, adds up to about 3,000 personnel.

Esper informed Saudi Crown Prince and Defense Minister Muhammad bin Salman of the deployment, which is to “assure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia,” according to a Pentagon statement. Saudi Arabia is a “long-standing security partner” of the US, and the deployment is needed “in response to continued threats,” Esper said.

“We thought it was important to continue to deploy forces, to deter and defend, and to send the message to the Iranians: Do not strike another sovereign state, do not threaten American interests, American forces or we will respond,” Esper said. “And I’ve said time and time again, do not mistake our restraint for weakness. If you will, you will regret that.”

The latest deployments mean an additional 14,000 personnel have deployed to CENTCOM since May. This increase in deployments include the bomber task force deployed that month to Al Udeid AB, Qatar, on short notice, along with F-15Es to Al Dhafra AB, United Arab Emirates, in June.