F-22 Raptors are deploying to UAE via Moron Air Base, Spain.
On Feb. 10, 2022, six U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptor jets landed at Moron Air Base, Spain. Flying as TABOR 11-17 and supported by KC-10 tankers using Gold 51-53 radio callsigns, the six stealth fighters were the first of two sections from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, being deployed to UAE.
The deployment of a squadron of F-22s to the Middle East was announced a few days ago, when General Kenneth F. McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM), announced that the U.S. would deploy the 5th generation aircraft to UAE to help defend the country against Houthi terrorist strikes.
“Over the next week or so, we’re going to bring in a squadron of F-22 fighter jets, the best air superiority fighters in the world. They will work with their UAE partners to help defend the nation. So, we think this is just one friend helping another in a time of crisis,” General McKenzie told UAE state-run news agency WAM .
“Even as the UAE has come under attack, the US has moved quickly and swiftly to help an old friend. We brought a destroyer in a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Cole, which has ballistic missile defence capabilities. It will patrol the waters of the UAE, working closely with UAE air defenders to protect their nation.”
BREAKING: The US will deploy F-22 jets to the UAE to deter the Houthis
— Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) February 8, 2022
Five attacks targeting the UAE using drones and missiles have been recorded in 2022 so far. Are 12 F-22s going to deter more drone or missile attacks? Unlikely. Moreover, other assets already in theater can hunt drones or collect intelligence on Houthi rebels, if needed. The deployment appears to be more an opportunity to test a unit’s ability to move some Raptors to the Middle East and launch sorties from a forward operating location on a short-notice as done in the past rather than a real show of force or build up of forces to deter Iran as someone speculated.
Last time USAF F-22 deployed to UAE was when 12x Raptors operated from Al Dhafra Air Base between May and October 2018 as part of a pre-planned rotation to the Gulf. More recently, at the end of June 2019, 12 F-22 Raptors belonging to the 1st Fighter Wing and the 192nd Fighter Wing of the Virginia Air National Guard, both from Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, deployed to the AFCENT AOR (Area Of Responsibility), to respond to a short-notice deployment request. Back then, the F-22 did not deploy to UAE but (for the first time) to Al Udeid, Qatar “to defend American forces and interests in the region.”
All the photographs in this article were taken by The Aviationist‘s contributor David Parody. They depict the arrival at Moron AB, Spain, of the first six Raptors. A second section, with four additional F-22s, arrived at the Spanish airbase after dark.