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US Air Force deploys F-35s to Jordan

F-35A fighters at an undisclosed location that could be identified as Jordan's Shahid Muwaffaq al-Salti Air Base. (US Air Forces Central)

US Air Forces Central (AFCENT) announced on 26 July that a squadron of F-35A Lightning II multirole fighters had been deployed to US Central Command area of responsibility.

“The 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, will help defend interests, promote regional security, and safeguard freedom of navigation in the region,” AFCENT said. “The F-35s will partner with A-10 and F-16s already in theatre, helping monitor the Strait of Hormuz.”

AFCENT said the deployment had already been announced, an apparent reference to a 17 July US Department of Defense statement saying F-35 and F-16 fighters, as well as a US Navy destroyer, were being deployed “in response to a number of recent, alarming events in the Strait of Hormuz” that included Iranian seizures of oil tankers.

While both the A-10 attack aircraft and F-16s were deployed to Al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates, AFCENT released a video and photographs showing F-35As landing at a location that could be identified as Shahid Muwaffaq al-Salti Air Base near Al-Azraq in Jordan, over 1,000 km from Al-Dhafra.

Photographs released earlier by AFCENT show this is the officially undisclosed location of its 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, which normally has a squadron of F-15E Strike Eagle multirole fighters and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

One of the AFCENT photographs showed F-35As parked in bays that are normally occupied by F-15s in open-source satellite imagery of the Jordanian base, suggesting their deployment was a rotation rather than a reinforcement.

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