At least two US B-52 bombers led by the military fighter jets from Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar flew over the Persian Gulf demonstrating military power in the Middle East on Sunday as tensions escalated between Tehran and Washington. The B-52 Stratofortress strategic sweep signifying the military alliance between the US, Israel, and Gulf, comes as a warning after Iranian hardliners attacked the Israeli-owned Bahamian-flagged cargo vessel, MV Helios Ray, in the Gulf of Oman raising security concerns in the region. The United Kingdom (UK) Maritime Trade Operations, run by the British navy said that missile explosions in the Gulf of Oman forced the cargo vessels to ballast or sail to the nearest ports.
A pair of U.S. Air Force B-52H “Stratofortresses” flew a multinational patrol mission across the #MiddleEast from @TeamMinot today to deter aggression and reassure partners and allies @USAFCENT @MOD_Qatar @modgovksa #B52— U.S. Central Command (@CENTCOM) March 7, 2021
Today (Sunday), Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets escorted two American B-52 bombers through Israeli airspace.— Israel Defense Forces (@IDF) March 7, 2021
This flight is part of the joint strategic cooperation with US forces, which is pivotal in maintaining the security of Israeli and Middle Eastern skies. pic.twitter.com/CViOa3LvBT
Maritime intelligence firm Dryad Global and troops deployed in the strategic passage, on condition of anonymity, identified the cargo vessel that was struck by Iran-backed Houthis as Israel’s MV Helios Ray. Satellite-tracking data released by intelligence firm showed that the Israeli vessel had nearly entered the Arabian Sea at about 0600 GMT when a powerful missile-like explosion blasted near Dammam, Saudi Arabian waters, and the cargo scrambled back towards the Strait of Hormuz.
1/2 Israeli owned MV HELIOS RAY suffers explosion within the Gulf of #Oman. Vessel inbound Singapore from Dammam Saudi Arabia when incident occurred 44nm NW Muscat. Owner tells Reuters damage = two holes, diameter approx 1.5m.https://t.co/ufdRoPmOcY pic.twitter.com/d5B03UwAc1— Dryad Global (@GlobalDryad) February 26, 2021
[The Israeli-owned cargo ship, Helios Ray, sits docked in port. Credit: AP]
Israel’s Channel 13, later aired visuals citing unnamed military sources and laid the blame for the explosive attack on Tehran. Following the mounting bilateral tensions, Israeli F-15 fighter jets, early Sunday, escorted American B-52s during flyby through the Israeli airspace in defiance to Iran’s aggression and recent attacks on the US military bases that linked back to Iran allied militias. This would be the first time that Israeli fighter jets maneuvered with Saudi and Qatar’s airforce pilots accompanying the US Air Force’s B-52H Stratofortresses.
US Central Command, later, issued an official statement not directly naming Tehran that the fighter aircraft flew multinational patrol "to deter aggression and reassure partners and allies of the US military’s commitment to security in the region.” Israel Defense Forces also shared update ad photographs of Israeli Air Force F-15 fighter jets escorting the US bombers through its aerospace. "This flight is part of the joint strategic cooperation with US forces, which is pivotal in maintaining the security of Israeli and Middle Eastern skies,” IDF said. Meanwhile, the US Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet deployed in Middle Eastern territorial waters ramped up patrols and has had tense encounters with Iranian vessels lately.
(Image Credit: Twitter/@IDF)