American Strike Eagles Put Iran in the Firing Line; F-15E Squadron Deploys to UAE
Following announcements that the United States would increase its military presence in the Persian Gulf region amid growing tensions with the Islamic Republic of Iran, the U.S. Air Force has reinforced its existing contingent in the region with a squadron of F-15E heavy strike fighters. The fighters are from the U.S. Air Force 336th Fighter Squadron, 4th Fighter Wing, and have reportedly been deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates. Al Dhafra has hosted a number of new American fighter squadrons in recent months, including an F-35A squadron deployed in early April and a squadron of F-15C air superiority fighters deployed in early May. The F-35A is not yet considered fully combat ready for engagements with near peer adversaries, and is currently forced to deploy with luenburg reflectors to nullify its stealth capabilities and deny nearby enemy radar systems the chance to study its airframe. The F-15E thus represents the most capable strike fighter deployed in proximity to Iran by the United States, and is considerably heavier, better armed and more specialised in the role than the multiple F-18E Super Hornet squadrons deployed to the region by the U.S. Navy.
F-15E Strike Eagle at Al Dhafra Airbase UAE – June 2019
Deployment of Strike Eagles comes following American allegations that Iran unprovokedly attacked Japanese oil tankers, and the nuclear capable fighters are expected to complement the capabilities of the four B-52H heavy bombers which have also been deployed to the region for missions such as the eroding of the Iranian air defence capability at standoff range and the early neutralisation of the country’s airbases, command centres and other vital targets. The Strike Eagle is by a considerable margin the most capable Western strike fighter ever developed, and is also fielded in large numbers by U.S allies in the region. Israel currently fields 25 of the aircraft, modified with indigenous subsystems under the designation F-15I, and is planning the acquisition of 25 more. The Royal Saudi Air Force deploys two squadrons of over 60 of the fighters alongside the air to air combat oriented F-15C, and is set to field over 100 of these elite fighters. The F-15E in Saudi service is designated F-15SA, and retains a number of more advanced capabilities including more modern electronic warfare systems and avionics, a higher missile carrying capacity and a more advanced AESA radar. Qatar has also ordered an enhanced F-15E variant – the F-15QA. Strike Eagles from all these countries are expected to participate in conjunction with those from the United States in the event of a war with Iran. The F-15E retains a very considerable range advantage over all other Western fighters with the exception of the F-22 Raptor, allowing the U.S. and its allies to strike targets across Iran at both standoff and close ranges – depending on the nature of the munitions used. Despite being further away, Israel will also retain this capability without aerial refuelling due to its expected ability to base squadrons on allied Arab territory.