US deploys F-22 stealth fighters to Qatar amid Iran tensions

US deploys F-22 stealth fighters to Qatar amid Iran tensions

US deploys F-22 stealth fighters to Qatar amid Iran tensions

The United States Air Force has dispatched F-22 stealth fighters to Qatar for the first time to defend U.S. forces and interests amidst growing tensions with Iran.

The US Air Force's Central Command confirmed the deployment of the jets to Qatar's al-Udeid air base on Friday, posting photos of some of the planes arriving in the desert base this week.

It did not specify how numerous hi-tech planes had been sent.

F-22s, which carry air-to-air missiles and can perform ground-attack missions as well, had previously deployed to al-Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates, where they were used a year ago in support of USA and partner forces in Syria. Iran has threatened to abandon some of its commitments under the nuclear deal unless the remaining partners - Britain, China, France, Germany and Russian Federation - help it circumvent United States sanctions and especially sell its oil.

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Relations between Tehran and Washington have sunk to new lows in the past two months, with the U.S. beefing up its military footprint in the region just before twin sabotage attacks damaged six oil tankers in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The Trump administration also sanctioned Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, a move Tehran said closed off the possibility of negotiation, and which President Hassan Rouhani called "mentally retarded". The US Air Force claims it "cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft".

Costing about $150m apiece, the F-22 Raptor is a fifth-generation, single-seat, twin-engine fighter jet, designed primarily as an air superiority fighter, but also has ground attack and signal intelligence capabilities. US Air Force F-22 Raptors fly in formation as they prepare to land at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, June 27, 2019.

The multinational coalition would be led by an unnamed United States ally, with the Pentagon expected to provide ships, aircraft and communications support.

Strategically placed, about 80 percent of aerial refuelling in the region is being done from Al Udeid, according to Qatari officials.

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