(WASHINGTON) — The United States is deploying thousands of additional U.S. forces to Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the Iran’s attack on Saudi oil facilities in September, the Pentagon announced on Friday. The deployment includes fighter squadrons, early detection aircraft, and air defense systems.
“[Defense] Secretary Esper informed Saudi Crown Prince and Minister of Defense Muhammad bin Salman this morning of the additional troop deployment to assure and enhance the defense of Saudi Arabia,” said Chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman in a statement on Friday. “Taken together with other deployments, this constitutes an additional 3,000 forces that have been extended or authorized within the last month.”
The U.S. is sending two fighter squadrons, one air expeditionary wing, two Patriot Batteries, and one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) to Saudi Arabia. The air expeditionary wing can be comprised of tankers, fighters, surveillance and reconnaissance, and the Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS), a U.S. official tells ABC News.
The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln has been in the Gulf region since May and is expected to depart later this year. The carrier will likely to not be replaced because the USS Harry S. Truman remains in Norfolk, Virginia for unscheduled repairs to its electrical systems.
The new aircraft deployment is not meant to make up for the potential lack of a U.S. carrier in the region but is intended to back fill the squadrons of aircraft the U.S. sent to the region earlier this summer after Iran carried out a series of attacks on commercial shipping and downed an American drone. The squadrons sent during that time were not originally scheduled to be replaced.
“Since May, the Department of Defense has increased the number of forces by approximately 14,000 to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility as an investment into regional security,” Hoffman said. “As we have stated, the United States does not seek conflict with the Iranian regime, but we will retain a robust military capability in the region that is ready to respond to any crisis and will defend U.S. forces and interest in the region.”
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