A Second F-22 Raptor Squadron for Gulf Base opposite Iran
Real US military preparations for a strike on Iran are proceeding apace. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources report a second F-22 Raptor squadron will be heading to the Gulf in the coming days. If not for logistical delays, such as getting hangars ready for the incoming planes and crews, they would have landed in the third or fourth week of April.
Those preparations broke surface with the Aviation Week disclosure of the USAF’s deployment of the first batch of its premier penetrating strike fighter, the F-22 Raptor, to a United Arab Emirates base across the Gulf from Iran.
debkafile’s military sources added that the Raptors from the 302nd Fighter Squadron’s Joint Elmendorf-Richardson Base in Alaska were destined for the Al Dhafra Air Base (click on the attached map).
Israel has complained to Washington that its war preparations are impaired by US officials drumming up aspersions on Israel’s operational competence for attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities. The Obama administration has denied any part in this campaign. It turned out this week that the denials were correct and the campaign was being run by US army and intelligence elements who oppose a war on Iran. This time they hit America’s own preparations by planting a prominent report in the Los Angeles Times claiming that “some of the nation’s top aviators are refusing to fly the radar-evading F-22 Raptor, a fighter jet with ongoing problems with the oxygen systems that have plagued the fleet for four years.”
The USAF’s reply was that, without revealing how many of its 200 F-22 pilots stationed at seven military bases across the country declined their assignment orders, current and former Air Force officials called it “an extremely rare occurrence.”
Much more than a cautionary military demonstration of might
Someone in the military intelligence community was evidently signaling Iran that the F-22s poised opposite the Strait of Hormuz and Revolutionary Guards facilities were not all that threatening because oxygen system problems occurred at top radar-evading altitudes and the pilots were refusing to fly them.
All the same, our military sources report, the second batch of F-22 Raptors will soon be arriving in the Gulf.
It is clear that Obama administration is not just engaged in a demonstration of military might for the purpose of cowing Iran into giving up its nuclear weapons ambitions. For this, a far smaller exhibition of military might would have served. There was no need to shove two squadrons of premier strike fighters plus two aircraft carriers, the USS Enterprise and Abraham Lincoln and their strike groups under Iran’s nose.
The present scale of the US military buildup is well beyond a cautionary demonstration. It means that behind the hype about an approaching breakthrough in the nuclear negotiations with Tehran, Washington is not at all sure the Iranians will reach the finishing line in good faith and not come up with a last-minute pretext for going back on its assurances. If that happened, the Obama administration would be left with no recourse other than military action for making good on its pledge to prevent Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Therefore, as one source put it, while back-channel US-Iran diplomacy is the carrot, the stick is held ready to strike if Iran fails to come up to scratch.
US strength massed on two strategic islands
The Raptors and the carriers are just part of the concentration of US strength around the Islamic Republic, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s military sources report. The bulk of its military manpower is massed ready for an offensive on two islands, Masirah in the Gulf of Oman at the southern exit of the Strait of Hormuz and Yemeni Socotra in the Gulf of Aden, near where it connects to the Indian Ocean. (See special maps attached to this article.)
Masirah off the east coast of Oman, runs 95 km long from north to south and between 12 and 14 km broad, with an area of about 649 km², and an estimated population of 12,000 in 12 villages concentrated mainly in the north of the island. Most of the island's interior is uninhabited. It is accessible only by a small ferry for cars and Omani Air Force Hercules (RAFO) flights.
Socotra is a small archipelago of four islands in the Indian Ocean which is named for the largest. The chain lies some 240 kilometers (150 mi) east of the Horn of Africa and 380 kilometers (240 mi) south of the Arabian Peninsula.
Our sources learn that, five months ago, President Barack Obama secretly ordered the US Air Force, Navy and Marines to pile up strength on the two strategic islands of Masirah and Socotra.
Tehran and Moscow are worried
On Socotra they occupied the facilities the US has been constructing there since 2010: giant air and naval bases with facilities for submarines, intelligence command centers and take-off pads for stealth drones. Their existence is so secret that they do not appear in any catalogue of US military strongholds in the region.
On Masirah, American forces are accommodated in Camp Justice, a huge air and ground facility.
The islands are links in a chain of strategic US military bases in the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf, also to be found at Jebel Ali and Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates; Arifjan in Kuwait; and Al Udeid in Qatar. They are all within easy flying distances from Iran.
As we shall see in the next item, the US military preparations for attacking Iran are being taken very seriously not just in Tehran but also in Moscow.