The Pentagon ordered an undisclosed number of Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor fighters to be sent to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) after U.S. forces came under a missile attack by Yemen's Houthi rebels. The F-22s arrived in the UAE on Saturday in response to recent Houthi attacks that have threatened U.S. and Emirati forces stationed at the host installation.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered the rapid deployment of the fifth-generation aircraft in coordination with Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince. The Air Force’s F-22s will join a range of coalition, allied, and partner combat airpower capabilities already based across the region.
"The unparalleled capabilities of the F-22 in a variety of missions, as well as its ability to interoperate … make it ideally suited to serve in the Middle East region during this critical time," said Lt. Gen. Greg Guillot, commander of the Ninth Air Force. "The Raptors' presence will bolster already strong partner nation defenses and puts destabilizing forces on notice that the U.S. and our partners are committed to enabling peace and stability in the region."
The Iranian-backed Houthis have carried out a number of largely unsuccessful attacks on Emirati targets in recent weeks. American forces at Al-Dhafra Air Base recently launched Patriot missiles to intercept two Houthi missiles. The incident marked the first time that U.S. troops have fired the system in combat since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The recent attacks were part of the broader conflict between the Yemeni government, which is backed by a Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE, and the Iranian-backed Houthis. The conflict, which began in late 2014, has intensified in recent weeks as the Houthis have tried to take control of northern Yemen.
From Virginia to the Gulf
The Air Force announced over the weekend that the F-22s were deployed from the 1st Fighter Wing, located at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia.
"Through the vital support of the 192d Wing and the 633rd Air Base Wing, we were able to get the 27th Fighter Squadron out the door on short-notice. Our Raptors are modernized highly-capable fighters, operated by the finest Airmen, and they bring decisive airpower wherever they go," explained Col. William Creeden, commander of the 1st Fighter Wing.
The F-22 Raptors were last deployed in the region between June 2019 and February 2020. The U.S. Navy also deployed the USS Cole, an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, to partner with the UAE’s Navy. The Cole is currently in port in Abu Dhabi and will continue to collaborate on air defense and provide early warning intelligence.
The F-22 Raptor is widely regarded as one of the most dominant fighters in the world. The Raptor is especially respected for its unique dogfighting and air-to-air maneuverability capabilities.
Despite the fact that it entered service in 2005, the fifth-generation fighter has been continuously updated and remains unrivaled around the world. The Air Force, Raytheon, and Lockheed have integrated performance-enhancing software upgrades into the F-22’s weapons, including newer AIM-120D and AIM-9X air-to-air weapon variants.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms, and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.