Air Force fighter planes sent to Persian Gulf amid heightened tensions with Iran

The military deployed nearly a dozen Air Force fighter jets to the Persian Gulf state of Qatar this week amid escalating tensions with Iran and threats against American forces in the region.

The F-22 Raptors arrived Thursday to al-Udeid air base, the hub for U.S. air operations in the Middle East. In a statement, U.S. Central Command said the planes were being deployed to Qatar for the first time to "defend American forces and interests."

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Air Force F-22 Raptors arrive at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on June 27 to defend American forces and interests in U.S. Central Command.

Air Force F-22 Raptors arrive at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on June 27 to defend American forces and interests in U.S. Central Command. (Tech. Sgt. Nichelle Anderson/Air Force)

The planes carry air-to-air missiles and can perform ground attack missions. The military used the F-22s last year in support of U.S. and allied forces in Syria.

Tensions in the region between Washington and Teheran have heightened in recent weeks. In May, President Trump deployed the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group and a B-52 bomber task force to send a "message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

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The Pentagon last week approved sending an additional 1,000 troops to the region after officials blamed Iran for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of Central Command, requested and received additional air-and-missile defense systems.

He also is receiving additional surveillance and intelligence-gathering aircraft to improve the military's ability to monitor potential Iranian threats against shipping in the Gulf area.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.