US Central Command (CENTCOM) deployed advanced F-35A fighter jets for the first time in the Middle East on April 15 as part of its overall efforts to defend partner nations and counter threats around the world.
The supersonic F-35A is a next generation fighter jet, the result of years of research and billions of dollars of investment.
Among many high-tech features, it can evade ground-radar detection, while its electronics can send detailed targeting information to other planes carrying long-range missiles, making the fighter a lethal force to confront.
"We are adding a cutting edge weapons system to our arsenal that significantly enhances the capability of the coalition," said Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella, commander of US Air Forces Central Command. "The sensor fusion and survivability this aircraft provides to the joint force will enhance security and stability across the theater and deter aggressors."
The deployment of the F-35A bolsters the ground operations of US-led coalition troops fighting enemy combatants such as the Taliban and "Islamic State" (IS), while serving as a deterrent and counterweight to mounting threats from countries such as Russia and Iran.
The fighter jet's deployment to the Middle East increases the options of US forces for warding off aggression in the region, where Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) continues to export terrorism across the region at the expense of the Iranian people, and where the Syrian regime has used and continues to threaten to deploy chemical weapons on its own people.
The United States recently designated the IRGC a "terrorist group" following decades of hostile acts worldwide by the group.
Dedication to partners
The presence of the fighter jet is expected to strengthen long-running military-to-military relationships, improve combined tactical air operations and enhance the inter-operability of forces, equipment and procedures.
The deployment of the F-35A also highlights CENTCOM's dedication to Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) regional partners and joint efforts to sustain regional security and stability in the Arabian Peninsula.
Thirty-plus senior officials from eight nations, including the six GCC members, Egypt, and Jordan, discussed regional security issues such as maritime security, integrated air and missile defence and logistics at the Gulf Chiefs of Defence conference March 19 at CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida.
The one-day conference, the first held in the United States and the fourth in three years, gave senior US and Arab military leaders opportunities to discuss security objectives together, as well as ways to fit the F-35A into those common goals.
US Air Force Lt. Col. Yosef Morris, commander of the 4th Fighter Squadron commander, described the F-35A as "a true force multiplier".
In the F-35A, "we have the ability to gather, fuse and pass so much information, that we make every friendly aircraft more survivable and lethal. That combined with stealth allows us to really complement any combined force package."
While this is the first deployment of the F-35A, the US Marine Corps version of the aircraft, the F-35B, already conducted its first combat strike in Afghanistan last September, successfully destroying Taliban positions in support of ground clearance operations.