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    U.S. Air Force F-35s Successfully Carry Out Deterrence Operation in Middle East Amid Heightened Tensions with Iran and Russia in 2023

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    In a strategic move to counter Iranian aggression and Russian interference in the Middle East, the U.S. Air Force’s F-35 Lightning II stealth fighters have concluded their mission.

    F-35 Lightning II – Leeuwarden Airport” by Frans Berkelaar is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    These advanced aircraft were instrumental in bolstering maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz and addressing Russian operations in Syria.

    This deployment of the F-35s, which commenced on July 26, was a rapid response by the Pentagon following Iranian attacks on commercial shipping around the Strait of Hormuz—a critical maritime passageway where a significant portion of the world’s oil is transported.

    The F-35s operated as part of the 421st Air Expeditionary Squadron and their presence in the region bolstered U.S. capabilities to conduct combat air patrols over the Strait, a task underscored by Air Forces Central (AFCENT) commander Lt. Gen. Alexus G. Grynkewich as essential to deter any further Iranian actions against maritime shipping“What the F-35s did is they gave us additional capacity.”

    Lockheed Martin F-35 ‘Lightning II’ Heritage Flight Team” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    The advanced fighter jets, belonging to the 388th Fighter Wing based out of Hill Air Force Base, Utah, concluded their mission in late September. Lt. Gen.

    Grynkewich highlighted the impact of the F-35s, stating, “What the F-35s did is they gave us additional capacity.”

    F-35 Lightning II” by Chad Horwedel is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    With their superior stealth and sensor capabilities, the F-35s enhanced the U.S. military’s ability to conduct operations in both Iraq and Syria while increasing support for Navy operations in the strategically vital waters near Iran.

    Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    The deployment also had the benefit of curbing Russian assertiveness. Grynkewich noted a change in Russian tactics, as the advanced fighters discouraged Russian warplanes from aggressive maneuvers against American assets in the region.

    This development came after a period of concerning interactions that included Russian fighters damaging U.S. MQ-9 drones with flares.

    F-35 Lightning II completes Edwards testing” by MultiplyLeadership is licensed under CC BY 2.0

    Following the deployment of the F-35s and the release of footage showing Russian harassment, Russia has moderated its tactics and has become less aggressive., with Grynkewich welcoming the “shift in behavior.”

    UK F-35B Lightning II” by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

    Furthermore, the U.S. air operations over Syria have also been bolstered by coalition partners, including the French and British.

    “We are still under danger of terrorist attack in our capitals or in our land,” Gen. Stéphane Mille, Chief of the French Air and Space Force, told reporters in September. “We are flying together.”

    Goodbye Edwards, (Lockheed Martin F-35 ‘Lightning II’ ‘Joint Strike Fighter’s’ depart), hello Nellis.” by aeroman3 is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

    Despite the withdrawal of the F-35s, U.S. military presence in the Middle East remains robust, albeit more modest compared to previous years of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Turkish Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon” by Defence Images is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    The U.S. continues to have F-16s and A-10s in the area, ready to respond to any emergent threats.

    F-35 Lightning II” by Chad Horwedel is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    As Lt. Gen. Grynkewich put it, “My view is that deterrence is temporal,” emphasizing the U.S.’s strategic approach of surging forces in response to specific threats, showcasing America’s unwavering commitment to the region’s security.

    Relevant articles:
    F-35s Leave Middle East After Deployment to Deter Iran and Russia, Air & Space Forces Magazine
    US to send F-35 and F-15 jets to the Middle East to deter expansion of fighting beyond Israel’s borders, businessinsider.com
    35I to shoot down cruise missile, a first for Joint Strike Fighter, breakingdefense.com
    F-35s Arrive in CENTCOM Amid Threats from Russia, Iran, Air & Space Forces Magazine, Jul 26, 2023

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