After having deployed two fighter squadrons of F-15s, new air defense systems (including two Patriot batteries and a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD)) and other assets mid of this month, USAF two B-1B Bombers have arrived at Prince Sultan Air Base (PSAB), where US F-22s and EA-18G Growlers are also deployed. All these deployments represents US military build-up in Saudi Arabia that was started in the aftermath of cruise missile and drone attack on Saudi oil infrastructure on September 14, 2019. The attack on Saudi oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais sent shock waves through both the global energy market and the national security sector, with fingers quickly pointing toward Iran as the culprit, even though the Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility.
The recent US military build up by the deployment of the B-1Bs marks the return of the Lancers to the Middle East AOR (Area Of Operation) after the bombers were pulled from the theater in March 2019, and follows the deployment of F-22 Raptors to PSAB that was announced by the US Air Force Central Command with a video showing a stealth aircraft at PSAB on October 22, 2019. The presence of an unspecified number of EA-18G Growlers (from US Navy Electronic Attack squadron) has not been officially announced, but it’s not a secret. As USAFCENT published a series of aerial photographs of the Lancers taking fuel over the Persian Gulf as well as being escorted by the F-22 Raptors and EA-18G Growlers.
On the additional deployment, Mark Esper said. “We thought it was important to continue to deploy forces, to deter and defend, and to send the message to the Iranians: Do not strike another sovereign state, do not threaten American interests or forces, or we will respond.” Washington has been sending a steady stream of military assets to the Kingdom over the past several months, as part of the “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran. Tehran has responded by saying that any attack on its territory would be met with a disproportionate and devastating response against both US assets and allies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Since May, the Pentagon has increased the number of forces in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility by approximately 14,000. That also comes as the department has emphasized the need to adhere to the National Defense Strategy, a document that explicitly calls for drawing down in the CENTCOM region in order to refocus resources towards China and Russia.