The United States is sending six Boeing B-52H Stratofortress strategic bomber aircraft to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean for possible strikes against Iran.
The deployment, which was reported by CNN citing an anonymous Pentagon source on 6 January, will see the aircraft sent to the UK-controlled island from where they can conduct attacks against Iran if needed, but from where, at more than 5,000 km from Tehran, they will also be out of range of any Iranian pre-emptive or reprisal strikes. The B-52H has a combat range of 14,080 km but this can be extended almost indefinitely with aerial refuelling.
At the time of writing, neither the White House nor the Department of Defense (DoD) had confirmed or even commented on the report that came as tensions between the US and Iran reach boiling point over the killing of the Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani, on 3 December.
CNN did not provide a specific timeline for the deployment, and neither did it say which unit the bombers belong to. The US Air Force (USAF) locates its B-52Hs with the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot Air Force Base (AFB) in North Dakota and the 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, both of which fall under Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC). The aircraft is also assigned to the Air Force Reserve Command's 307th Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB.
While some reports have noted the B-52H's nuclear capabilities, adding to the already high levels of tension in the Middle East region, it should be noted that only 46 of the US Air Force's total fleet of 76 bombers are nuclear-capable. In its report of the planned deployment, CNN did not disclose if any, all, or none of the six aircraft going to Diego Garcia can carry nuclear weapons or not.
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