“Bones” have made a visit to Prince Sultan Air Base. Where U.S. F-22s and EA-18G Growlers are also deployed.
Last week, two (according to other sources four) B-1 Bombers from the 28th Bomb Wing, based at Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota, flew to Prince Sultan Air Base (PSAB), for the type’s first deployment in Saudi Arabia. The U.S. Air Forces Central Command and the Air Force Global Strike Command posted a series of videos on social media platforms showing the bombers taking off from their home base and landing at PSAB last Friday.
The deployment of the B-1s marks the return of the Lancers to the Middle East AOR (Area Of Operation) after the bombers were pulled from the theater in March 2019, and follows the deployment of F-22 Raptors to PSAB that was announced by the U.S. Air Force Central Command with a video showing a stealth aircraft at PSAB on Oct. 22, 2019:
An F-22 Raptor conducts a low pass over Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia today. The ability of fighter jets to operate at locations like PSAB demonstrates AFCENT and @CENTCOM commitment to providing a credible, capable and dynamic defense posture in the Middle East. #airpower pic.twitter.com/PLB0wXJvId
— US AFCENT (@USAFCENT) October 22, 2019
The B-1 and F-22 deployments represent part of a U.S. build up in Saudi Arabia that was started in the aftermath of the cruise missile and suicide drone attacks on Saudi Aramco oil facilities in Saudi Arabia on Sept. 14, 2019.
Interestingly, in the last few hours, the U.S. military has continued to release images of the short deployment of the B-1s to PSAB (that, among all the other things, show that the Lancers all carried the SNIPER Advanced Targeting Pod that has become a pretty standard feature of the “Bone”).
USAFCENT published a series of aerial photographs of the Lancers taking fuel over the Persian Gulf as well as being escorted by the F-22 Raptors and EA-18G Growlers.
The presence of an unspecified number of EA-18G Growlers has not been officially announced, but it’s not a secret.
Teased by the patch worn by an aircrew member depicted close a Raptor during a visit to PSAB by U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, it was confirmed by the photo at the top of this article that shows the B-1s on their way to Saudi Arabia being escorted by two Growlers and, above all, by the presence of the VAQ-134 CAG bird in the same clamshell aircraft hangars where CNN’s Christiane Amanpour interviewed Esper on Oct. 22:
Exclusive: Just sat down with US Defense Sec @EsperDoD for an interview at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, as the clock ticks down on the pause in Turkey’s offensive.
— Christiane Amanpour (@camanpour) October 22 2019
Earlier this month, the Pentagon announced the deployment of additional U.S. forces to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. But the list of equipment included “only”:
- Two Fighter Squadrons
- One Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW)
- Two Patriot Batteries
- One Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD)
The Department of Defense did not disclose the bombers deployment (that should be quite short – hence the reason for not being listed) nor the U.S. Navy Electronic Attack squadron (the VAQ-134 “Garudas”), unless it referred to it as a generic “Fighter Squadron”.
Interestingly, another shot of a B-1 on the ground at PSAB features what seems to be a RC-135 Rivet Joint in the background: the aircraft is probably a rare and highly modified Royal Saudi Air Force RE-3A.