F-15s and F-35s join B-52s: US begins air patrols over the Persian Gulf
F-15s and F-35s have joined B-52s conducting visible air patrols over the Persian Gulf in what the US hopes is a deterrence message to Iran, a day after four commercial ships, including two Saudi oil tankers were attacked near UAE territorial waters.
A US official said Monday that an American military team’s initial assessment is that Iranian or Iranian-backed proxies used explosives to blow large holes in four ships anchored off the coast of the United Arab Emirates.
The attack reportedly took place near Fujairah port, just outside the Strait of Hormuz. Saudi Arabia confirmed that two Saudi oil tankers sustained “significant damage”.
Another vessel was Norwegian-registered, whilst the fourth was reportedly UAE-flagged.
Video shows the damage to the Norwegian ship Andre Victoria.
Washington has warned shipping companies that “Iran or its proxies” could be targeting maritime traffic in the Persian Gulf region and said it was deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf and a new deployment of Patriot missiles to the Middle East to counter threats from Tehran.
Heavy aerial activity has been reported today over Israel, though unclear if related to the American buildup in the Persian Gulf.
“What happened in the Israeli airspace on Monday was unprecedented in the Israeli air force, we have seen many unilateral or joint exercises and we have seen the intensity of the IAF aircraft before but we did not see that time in flight for more than 16 hours non-stop”, Intel-Sky Middle East and Mediterranean airspace observer tweeted.
A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards terror group commander said on Sunday that the U.S. military presence in the Gulf used to be a serious threat but now represents a target, the Iranian Students News Agency reported.
“An aircraft carrier that has at least 40 to 50 planes on it and 6,000 forces gathered within it was a serious threat for us in the past but now it is a target and the threats have switched to opportunities,” said Muslim terrorist Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the IRGC’s aerospace division.
“If [the Americans] make a move, we will hit them in the head,” he added, according to ISNA.