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US transfers fighter jets, armed drones from UAE to Qatar amid regional tensions

The United States Department of Defense has initiated a significant transfer of fighter jets, armed drones and other aircraft from its air base in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Qatar. This decision follows the UAE’s refusal to allow its territory to be utilized as a staging ground for attacks on Iraq and Yemen. 

As The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported, the Pentagon’s repositioning effort is unfolding amid escalating regional tensions, manifested in military engagements in the region.  

Since November 2023, Yemenite militants supported by Iran, known as Houthi, have carried out several missile and drone attacks against both commercial and military ships in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. These attacks came in response to the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The economic fallout from this has been significant, with 12% of global trade passing through the affected area. 

International air and naval forces, including British, US, and French warships, have been actively engaged in defending vital shipping lanes against Houthi drones and missiles. Starting from January 2024, the US Air Force (USAF) and the British Royal Air Force have conducted several air strikes on Houthi military targets in Yemen in an attempt to curb their attacks on ships.  

Additionally, the USAF carried out air strikes between February 2 and 7, 2024, targeting Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq and Syria in retaliation against a drone strike against a US base in Jordan that killed three US troops. 

According to WSJ sources, in February 2024, the UAE communicated to US authorities its decision to no longer permit US combat aircraft and drones to conduct attacks against targets in Yemen and Iraq from al-Dhafra Air Base without prior Emirati approval. Responding to this shift, US commanders have begun transferring aircraft to al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. 

Al Dhafra Air Base hosts the USAF 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, which is composed of 10 squadrons of various aircraft, including Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor fighters, Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk observation drones, and General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper combat UAVs. 

In addition to a contingent of the USAF, since 2008, Al Dhafra has also housed an operational base, BA 104, for the French Air Force — Dassault Rafale fighters from the 1/7 Provence squadron and ground-air defense systems are permanently deployed there. AeroTime sent a request for comment to French authorities to inquire whether the US redeployment would have consequences. 

The post US transfers fighter jets, armed drones from UAE to Qatar amid regional tensions appeared first on AeroTime.

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