U.S. Air Force B-1 Lancer bombers fired advanced munitions in a live-fire exercise in the Middle East, the latest display of American muscle in the region.
Two B-1s took off from RAF Fairford in the United Kingdom on June 7 and released precision munitions—JDAM guided bombs and an AGM-158 JASSM cruise missile—the next day at ranges in Jordan and Saudi Arabia. The U.S. has stepped up its air and sea operations in the area amid Iran’s aggressive posture and thawing relations with Saudi Arabia.
“These bomber missions represent the U.S.’s commitment to our partners and showcase our ability to deliver overwhelming power at a moment’s notice,” Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich, the Air Forces Central (AFCENT) commander, said in a June 8 statement. “Today was a demonstration of that capability and the strength of our partnerships.”
Five partner nations joined the effort, according to the command. Bomber Task Force missions are often escorted by allied fighters, and Israel released a photo of its participation.
The mission comes as America is conducting a separate military exercise in Saudi Arabia, Eagle Resolve.
Last fall, the Biden administration said it would reevaluate America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia as the kingdom moved to keep oil prices high after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine. But since then, Iranian-backed militias have launched deadly attacks on American facilities, harassed vessels in the Arabian Gulf, and Washington has sought to improve relations with Riyadh.
“It is a strategic relationship,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Asharq News during a visit to Saudi Arabia. “I think what we’re seeing is an increasing convergence in our partnership to advance in issues of mutual interest to Saudi Arabia, to the United States, and, for that matter, to countries in the region and beyond.”
Air Forces Central’s A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, which can carry Small Diameter Bombs and other precision-guided munitions, have flown missions over the Arabian Sea, as have Navy anti-ship P-8 Poseidons.
The two B-1s that took off from RAF Fairford are part of a four-bomber task force from Dyess Air Force Base, Texas.
The four Bones have had a busy deployment over the last couple of weeks.
Two of the planes flew directly toward the Baltics and were met by a Russian fighter in what U.S. officials stressed was a safe interaction. A week later, two planes flew over Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina amid renewed ethnic tensions in the Balkans. B-1s also participated in an Arctic security exercise with America’s European allies in a flight over the North Sea earlier this week.
B-1s began preparing for their latest Middle East mission in CENTCOM as AGM-158 JASSMs were loaded onto the aircraft. The aircraft traded the High North for the Middle East and its 100-degree summer heat, refueling during the mission from KC-10 Extenders, which took off from Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, and KC-135 Stratotankers from Al Udied.
“These activities reinforced the U.S. commitment to contributing to the security and stability of the Middle East region and demonstrate the increasing complexity, deepening military interoperability, and strength of our shared defense capabilities,” Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Patricks S. Ryder told reporters.