Israeli F-15 fighter jets escorted an American B-52 bomber as it made its way through Israeli airspace en route to the Persian Gulf on Monday in an apparent show of force to Iran amid lingering tensions in the region.
“The flight was held as part of close cooperation with the US military, which represents a significant element in ensuring the security of the State of Israel’s airspace and the Middle East,” the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
The B-52H Stratofortress, which is capable of carrying a nuclear weapon, flew from its base in the United Kingdom, through the Straits of Gibraltar, over the Mediterranean, through Israeli airspace and out over the Red Sea, before traveling back on roughly the same route to the United Kingdom, as could be seen on public flight-tracking software.
The US military said the flight was meant to demonstrate the “US Air Force’s ability to seamlessly operate across combatant commands.” It said the B-52 was also accompanied by two F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets.
Israeli jets escorting American bombers have become a regular fixture in the skies of the Middle East in recent months as tensions between Tehran and the West have risen, while an attempt is underway to negotiate a new nuclear deal to prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining an atomic weapon in exchange for sanctions relief.
Israel, which is not a party to the talks, has maintained its freedom to act against Tehran’s nuclear program if it deems it necessary.
To that end, the Israeli Air Force has begun conducting exercises simulating strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities, with a US military official reportedly observing one recent drill.
Recent weeks have also seen a noted rise in attacks by the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen against the United Arab Emirates and Saudia Arabia, two key US allies in the region.