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IDF fighter jets escort American bomber through region, in tacit threat to Iran

Israeli F-15s accompany US B-1b heavy bomber on its way to the Gulf; move comes amid growing threats by Jerusalem and Washington over Iranian nuke program

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

  • In this photo released by the US Air Force, an Israeli Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle flies in formation with a US Air Force B-1B Lancer over Israel as part of a deterrence flight Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (US Air Force/Senior Airman Jerreht Harris via AP)
    In this photo released by the US Air Force, an Israeli Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle flies in formation with a US Air Force B-1B Lancer over Israel as part of a deterrence flight Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. (US Air Force/Senior Airman Jerreht Harris via AP)
  • An Israeli F-15 fighter jet escorts an American B-1b heavy bomber through Israeli airspace, on October 30, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
    An Israeli F-15 fighter jet escorts an American B-1b heavy bomber through Israeli airspace, on October 30, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
  • In this photo released by the U.S. Air Force, the crew of a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer display their mascot from the cockpit window over the Middle East Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. The U.S. Air Force said Sunday it flew a B-1B strategic bomber over key maritime chokepoints in the Mideast with allies including Israel amid ongoing tensions with Iran as its nuclear deal with world powers remains in tatters. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Jerreht Harris via AP)
    In this photo released by the U.S. Air Force, the crew of a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer display their mascot from the cockpit window over the Middle East Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. The U.S. Air Force said Sunday it flew a B-1B strategic bomber over key maritime chokepoints in the Mideast with allies including Israel amid ongoing tensions with Iran as its nuclear deal with world powers remains in tatters. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Jerreht Harris via AP)
  • An Israeli F-15 fighter jet escorts an American B-1b heavy bomber through Israeli airspace on October 30, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
    An Israeli F-15 fighter jet escorts an American B-1b heavy bomber through Israeli airspace on October 30, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

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.

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.”

In this photo released by the U.S. Air Force, the crew of a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer display their mascot from the cockpit window over the Middle East Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. The U.S. Air Force said Sunday it flew a B-1B strategic bomber over key maritime chokepoints in the Mideast with allies including Israel amid ongoing tensions with Iran as its nuclear deal with world powers remains in tatters. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Jerreht Harris via AP)

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.

An Israeli F-15 fighter jet escorts an American B-1b heavy bomber through Israeli airspace, on October 30, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has twice conducted airstrikes on enemy nations’ nuclear programs, bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor in 1981 and Syria’s in 2007.

In this photo released by the U.S. Air Force, an Israeli Air Force F-15 Strike Eagle flies in formation with a U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer over Israel as part of a deterrence flight Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021. The U.S. Air Force said Sunday it flew a B-1B strategic bomber over key maritime chokepoints in the Mideast with allies including Israel amid ongoing tensions with Iran as its nuclear deal with world powers remains in tatters. (U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Jerreht Harris via AP)

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.

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