B-52H Stratofortress bombers flew over the Middle East on Sunday in the midst of tensions with Iran, according to U.S. officials.
U.S. Central Command wrote that B-52H crews have conducted their “second Middle East presence patrol of 2021 as key part of CENTCOM’s defensive posture.”
The agency, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, included photos of the nuclear-capable bombers flying over the region.
It is the fifth time that U.S. Air Force planes have been flown over the Middle East in recent months, according to Central Command.
Gen. Frank McKenzie, Central Command’s commander, told news outlets that the missions are designed to demonstrate the United States’ commitment to the region.
“Short-term deployments of strategic assets are an important part of our defensive posture in the region,” he said in a statement. “The training opportunity and continued integration with regional partners improves readiness and delivers a clear and consistent message in the operational environment to both friends and potential adversaries, alike.”
.@usairforce B-52H crews conduct second Middle East presence patrol of 2021 as key part of CENTCOM’s defensive posture. @DeptofDefense @USAFCENT @TeamMinot @AirMobilityCmd @US_Stratcom #B52https://t.co/evxntC3GeH pic.twitter.com/or9tKq7cPE
— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) January 17, 2021
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard carried out a drill on Saturday, launching anti-warship missiles at a target in the Indian Ocean, according to state-run media outlets cited by The Associated Press. The regime also fired cruise missiles in the Gulf of Oman, according to state media.
A top Iranian commander downplayed the B-52H bomber flyover.
“Asked by reporters about the US Central Command’s move to fly B-52 bombers in the region, Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri said on the sidelines of a Monday conference in Tehran that those flights have no operational value,” according to state-backed Tasnim News.
Tehran also recently seized a South Korean oil tanker and started enriching uranium. Other than B-52 patrols, the United States sent the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier and a nuclear submarine to the region, AP reported.
In 2018, President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from Iran’s nuclear deal to the chagrin of Tehran. Trump cited Iran’s ballistic missile programs.
Tensions have also risen over the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in Tehran in November. Iranian leaders have accused Israeli spies of being behind his death. And more than a year ago, U.S. forces killed top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani near the Baghdad airport before Iran launched a barrage of missiles at U.S. bases.