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The US military is flexing its airpower muscles in the Middle East with supersonic bomber flights in the region

Jake Epstein   

The US military is flexing its airpower muscles in the Middle East with supersonic bomber flights in the region
  • The US military's B-1 Lancer carried out another mission around the Middle East this week.
  • The supersonic bomber has flown several missions around the region since the beginning of November.

US military B-1 Lancers have been busy in the Middle East this month. The latest mission is the third time in just a little over a week that the supersonic bombers have been used to put American airpower on display in the region.

US Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Monday that B-1 Lancers recently conducted missions in its area of responsibility — which spans over 4 million square miles and stretches diagonally from Egypt to Kazakhstan — for the third time in eight days, "demonstrating the ability to rapidly project combat power."

The B-1B Lancer is a multi-mission, supersonic aircraft that the US Air Force has described as the "backbone of America's long-range bomber force."

Capable of flying at 30,000 feet and traveling at speeds of over 900 mph, faster than the speed of sound, this decades-old aircraft can be heavily armed with a variety of conventional precision and unguided bombs and missiles. It has previously deployed on combat missions in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and in southeastern Europe during NATO's air campaign against former Yugoslavia.

The US military announced the first of the recent B-1 Lancer missions on November 5, saying that "the mission was designed to build agility and interoperability between US and partners while demonstrating the ability of the US military to respond to crises and contingencies across theaters." Three days later, on November 8, CENTCOM announced another mission — that time publishing photos of US F-16 fighter jets escorting the heavy bomber. It is unclear exactly when the most recent mission took place.

Though flights come at a time of increased military activity in the region and the tempo is somewhat irregular, a CENTCOM spokesperson told Insider that these bomber missions are part of the dynamic force employment Bomber Task Force flights and were planned in advance of the eruption of tensions in the area early last month. The Pentagon has said the same.

"It's important to differentiate the bomber task force mission from the current situation in the Middle East," Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a briefing on November 6, "recognizing that, again, it does demonstrate to our allies and our partners the capabilities that we have to respond to a variety of situations while also, again, showing our potential adversaries that we have these capabilities."

Tensions across the Middle East remain high as Israel's war against Hamas stretches into its sixth week and Iran-backed militias continue to attack US forces in Iraq and Syria with drones and rockets. Over the past month, the Pentagon has confirmed more than 50 attacks on its service members, although some think tanks like the Washington Institute for Near East Policy have pegged this figure much higher.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd has announced retaliatory strikes on three separate occasions, each time targeting Iranian assets in eastern Syria, with the most recent airstrikes occurring on Sunday. These "self-defense strikes" have hit a weapons storage facility, a training facility, and a safe house.

The Biden administration has routinely signaled its desire to keep the Israel-Hamas war contained to the Gaza Strip and prevent it from spiraling into a regional conflict. In repeated messages of deterrence to Iran and its proxies, the Pentagon has dispatched a large amount of combat power to the area — including aircraft carriers, destroyers, cruisers, fighter aircraft, and an Ohio-class submarine — while vowing that it will continue to take any action to protect American troops and facilities.

"The US Air Force is engaged, postured, and ready with credible force to assure, deter, and defend anytime, anywhere," US Air Forces Central Command said on Tuesday after the most recent B-1 Lancer flights, reiterating the deterrent goal of the Bomber Task Force missions.

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