The US Air Force said it flew the B-1B Lancer bomber over key waterways in the Middle East, escorted by fighter jets from American allies in the region amid heightened tensions with Iran.
The B-1B, a supersonic bomber capable of carrying the heaviest conventional payload of any US military plane, flew over the Gulf of Aden, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes, Bab al-Mandeb strait, one of the world’s most important tanker routes, Red Sea, Suez Canal, one of the world's busiest waterways, the Gulf, Strait of Hormuz, the world's busiest oil-shipping channel, and the Gulf of Oman.
Those key maritime chokepoints in the Middle East have witnessed a slew of attacks on shipping blamed on Iran in recent years, as well as assaults which are part of a shadow war between Iran and Israel. Tehran has denied involvement in those attacks but vowed to take revenge on Tel Aviv for a series of attacks that targeted its nuclear program.
US Central Command said the bomber’s mission was intended to deliver a clear message of reassurance.
“We are stronger together,” said General Frank McKenzie, commander of US Central Command. “Military readiness for any contingency or mission – from crisis response to multilateral exercises to one-day presence patrols like this – depend on reliable partnerships.”
Fighter jets from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and Israel escorted the B-1B Lancer over their respective airspaces.
The flyover comes as the US-Iran talks over reviving the nuclear deal have stalled for months since the election of President Ebrahim Raisi in June.
Washington has repeatedly expressed that its patience was wearing thin and that should diplomacy with Tehran fail, it was prepared to pursue other options.