American A-10 “Warthog” attack planes have arrived in the Middle East as the Pentagon aims to prevent the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas from escalating into a broader regional conflict. The 354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, was deployed to expedite firepower delivery to U.S. Central Command.
More advanced military aircraft, including F-35 Lightning II, F-15 Eagle, and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters, are expected to join them to deter Iran and other militant groups opposing Israel from joining the conflict.
The US is unequivocal in its support for Israel’s defense and is warning any entity that would consider taking advantage of the conflict to escalate violence. The new forces join the 75th Fighter Squadron from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, which already operates in the region. The Air Force plans to retire its nearly 50-year-old fleet by the end of the decade to accommodate more advanced aircraft.
Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall announced that airmen returning from Central Command will remain in the area, along with their replacement squadrons. This could mean units like the 421st Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, which had F-35As deployed to the Middle East before conflict erupted in Israel, may remain in Central Command.
The Department of Defense (DOD) has declined to provide specifics on U.S. air deployments, but Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin foreshadowed the deployments in a public statement, stating that the Pentagon has taken steps to bolster its presence in U.S. Central Command. Austin flew to Israel to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and other senior leaders ahead of an expected ground invasion of Gaza.
At least 27 American citizens have died in the conflict with Hamas, with 17 others missing. The US has moved the Ford carrier strike group into the eastern Mediterranean as a precautionary measure and to deter potential exploiters. The Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the Navy’s newest and most advanced carrier, carries around 5,000 sailors and military jets.
The Pentagon has not announced plans to send other types of aircraft. An American C-17 Globemaster III transport jet flew to Israel to pick up a small number of US troops for a military training exercise, which was canceled after Israel was attacked. The US government is arranging for at least four charter flights daily to evacuate Americans, including dual citizens, students, and tourists, out of Israel.