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US deploys F-22 fighters to Qatar amid tensions with Iran


The United States deployed F-22 stealth fighters to Qatar for the first time, in a bid to increase its military forces in the Middle East amid escalating tensions with Iran.
The US Air Forces Central Command, in a statement on Friday, said that the Air Force F-22 Raptor stealth fighters have been deployed to "Qatar for the first time in order to defend American forces and interests."
However, the military did not specify how many of the hi-tech planes had been sent, Al Jazeera reported.
The deployment comes a week after an Iranian surface-to-air missile shot down a US spy drone over the Strait of Hormuz. Iran has said that the drone was intruding its airspace, while Washington claimed it was over international waters.
Since then the two countries have been locked in a diplomatic spat of words, which escalated this week when Washington announced new sanctions against Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
In May, the US Air Force deployed several nuclear-capable B-52 Stratofortress bombers to the Gulf in response to what the US Defence Department described as a possible plan by Iran to attack US forces in the region, as well as an aircraft carrier task force.
The F-22 was created as the replacement of the successful F-15 Eagle in the early 2000s. The US Air Force claims it "cannot be matched by any known or projected fighter aircraft".
In the aftermath of the Gulf War in 1991, the US and Qatar had signed a military cooperation agreement after which the US military moved to Qatar in 2003, evacuating the Prince Sultan Airbase in Saudi Arabia.
Strategically placed, around 80 per cent of aerial re-fuelling in the region is being done from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, according to Qatari officials.

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First Published: Jun 30 2019 | 2:46 AM IST

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