A USAF B-1B Lancer, 9th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron, Air Forces Central Command, takes off from Al Udeid AB, Qatar, during Joint Air Defense Exercise 19-01 on Feb. 19, 2019. Air Force photo by SrA. Gracie I. Lee.
The US military is deploying a bomber task force and the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group to US Central Command in a move the White House says puts Iran on notice.
The bombers and carrier group “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,” National Security Advisor John Bolton said In a Sunday statement. “The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.”
Pentagon spokesman Charles Summers, in a Monday statement, said the deployment is a “prudent step” in response to indications of heightened Iranian readiness “to conduct offensive operations.”
“It ensures we have the forces we need in the region to respond to contingencies and to defend US forces and interests in the region,” he added.
The Air Force on Monday did not have any announcements or more detail about a possible bomber deployment. The service regularly rotates B-52s and B-1s to Al Udeid AB, Qatar, for ongoing combat operations throughout CENTCOM.
In March, B-1Bs returned to Dyess AFB, Texas, from their deployment, and no bombers have replaced them. The lack of bombers at the base was a rare event in 18 years of war in the Middle East.
“We rotate capabilities in and out of the AOR based on current operational requirements,” Air Forces Central Command said in a statement at the time. “Our combat capability and commitment to partners and allies in the region remains.”
Air Force Global Strike Command boss Gen. Timothy Ray told reporters last month that B-1s had been “overextended” during the combat deployments, at a 65-70 percent commit rate for more than a decade. “Wear and tear” got to the aircraft, the pilots, and maintainers, necessitating a break from deployments, he said.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said Monday the Abraham Lincoln is currently on a scheduled deployment and will transit to CENTCOM.
“This is the beauty of having a dynamic force,” he said on Twitter. “The US Navy can easily maneuver to protect national interests around the globe.”