Israeli F-15 fighter jets escorted an American heavy bomber through the region as it made its way to the Persian Gulf on Saturday, in an apparent threat to Iran.
“The flight represents the continued operational cooperation with American forces in the region,” the Israel Defense Forces said.
The escort mission came as Israeli and American officials have increasingly threatened to act against Tehran’s nuclear program, as Iran has stalled indirect negotiations with the United States in Vienna regarding a mutual return to the 2015 nuclear deal.
The Israeli military shared photographs and video footage of the flight, showing the American B-1b bomber, which is capable of carrying heavy bunker-buster bombs that would be needed for a strike on Iran’s largely underground nuclear facilities, alongside the Israeli F-15 jets.
Israeli officials have explicitly threatened a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program, while Americans have discussed the matter more circumspectly, referring to “other options” beyond diplomatic negotiations in order to halt Tehran’s atomic aspirations.
In the beginning of this year, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi announced he had instructed the military to begin drawing up fresh attack plans for such an operation, and last week the government reportedly allocated billions of shekels toward making those plans viable.
Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets escorted an American B-1B bomber over Israeli skies towards the Gulf earlier today.
The joint flight illustrates the continued strategic cooperation of the IDF with the United States in the area. pic.twitter.com/bD38bLt9dK
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) October 30, 2021
In his speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared that “Iran’s nuclear program has hit a watershed moment, and so has our tolerance. Words do not stop centrifuges from spinning… We will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.”
The Times of Israel has learned that the Israeli Air Force plans to begin simulating strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the coming months and that some aspects of the Israeli Air Force’s strike plan, which is still in the “draft” stage, could be ready within a short period of time, while others would take more than a year to be fully actionable.
Israel has twice conducted airstrikes on enemy nations’ nuclear programs, bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981 and Syria’s in 2007.
However, an attack on Iran’s nuclear program is widely expected to be far, far more complicated as Tehran has spread out its facilities throughout the country, buried them deep underground, and funded a number of powerful proxies throughout the region who would likely retaliate against Israel if such a strike should be carried out.