The day after Iranian fighter jets fired missiles at an unmanned U.S. Predator aircraft flying over international waters in the Persian Gulf, the U.S. Navy quietly released the photo above showing a stealthy F-22 Raptor flying alongside a Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornet.
The military did not say where exactly the photo was taken, only that the flight occurred in the “U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility,” aka the Middle East. The 5th Fleet is the Naval arm of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees all military operations in the region, including Afghanistan.
In the spring, the Air Force acknowledged it had sent F-22s to the Middle East, although it did not officially disclose the location of their basing. In the past, the Air Force has sent Raptors to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates for exercises. An Air Force spokesman said the current F-22 mission in the Middle East is characterized as “routine security partnership deployment.”
The F/A-18 in the newly released picture is currently stationed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), which is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. The Eisenhower is supporting coalition operations in Afghanistan and other “theater security cooperation efforts” in the region.
The F-22 is from Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico, based on the “HO” marking on the vertical stabilizer, meaning it is from the 49th Wing.
The timing of the picture’s posting is significant, particularly due to the Predator incident, which the U.S. did not publicly acknowledge until Nov. 8.
The military has released photos of F-22s in the Middle East before. However, this is the first time (to my knowledge) the Raptor has been pictured with another U.S. fighter in the region.
Below are some photos released during prior F-22 deployments to the Middle East. All are official Air Force photos.
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