(KTAL/KX News) –The U.S. Air Force is sending a half dozen B-52 Stratofortress bombers to a base in the Indian Ocean as tensions in the Middle East grow.
“Praying for our airmen from Barksdale Air Force Base and all others who are being deployed to the Middle East. God bless and protect the defenders of freedom,” said Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson (R) said in a tweet early Tuesday afternoon.
According to a report from CNN, the B-52s will be sent to Diego Garcia, a British territory that’s beyond the reach of Iranian missiles. The military hub acts as a strategic location for operations in both the Middle East and the Pacific.
Citing a U.S. official, CNN on Monday reported that the Cold War-era bomber will be “available for operations against Iran if ordered.”
KX News reached out to the U.S. Air Force Global Strike Command, which declined to comment on whether any Minot-based B-52s would be deployed. “To preserve operational security, we will not confirm or discuss details of potential deployments,” said Capt. Earon E. Brown in a statement.
Barksdale Air Force Base has also declined to comment on deployments for security reasons.
Barksdale and Minot are the only two Air Force bases in the United States that actively house B-52 Stratofortress aircraft.
“We know that B-52s are a critical part of any mission like this and we already have had some deployed to that region for some time,” said Rep. Johnson Tuesday afternoon.
“They’re adding additional infrastructure and support and I know that Barksdale will be a big part of that. We don’t know the full extent yet, but we would anticipate the B-52s being a big part of the operation there.”
The deployment to Diego Garcia comes just days after U.S. forces killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in an airstrike in Iraq.
Iran has said it intends to retaliate.
“The tension has escalated in that whole region of the Middle East and we’re in a very dangerous time and so we have to be fully prepared,” said Johnson, who expects to attend a classified briefing Wednesday along with the rest of the House and the Senate that will include Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley and CIA Director Gina Haspel.
“So I’m sure we’ll get a full explanation of the rationale for taking out Soleimani and the rest of the actions that, I think, we anticipate to be taking over the next days and weeks and months. I think a lot of it is still yet to be determined because a lot of it depends on how Iran reacts to this. And if they don’t quickly deescalate the situation, it’s very dangerous.”