Amid the threats of war with Iran, the U.S. Air Force has forward deployed Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jets to the Middle East, reported Air Force Times.
"We are adding a cutting-edge weapons system to our arsenal that significantly enhances the capability of the coalition," Lt. Gen. Joseph T. Guastella, commander of AFCENT, said in the release. "The sensor fusion and survivability this aircraft provides to the joint force will enhance security and stability across the theater and deter aggressors."
The F-35's deployment comes one month after Rockwell B-1 Lancer bombers completed their deployment at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, which left an operational gap of planes in the Middle East. The F-35s will support regional allies in airstrikes against the Taliban and Islamic State in Afghanistan.
The F-35 is expected to replace aging airframes such as the F-15, F-16, and A-10. The stealth jet's advanced sensor package is designed to integrate and share data with other assets on the modern battlefield.
"The F-35A provides our nation air dominance in any threat," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein said in the release. "When it comes to having a quarterback for the coalition joint force, the inter-operable F-35A is clearly the aircraft for the leadership role."