Despite the cooling of tensions between Iran and the United States, the Pentagon has deployed a number of strategic bombers to the Indian Ocean as further deterrence against additional Iranian actions.
The Air Force has deployed an unspecified number of B-52 Stratofortress and B-2 Spirit strategic bombers to the Naval Support Facility (NSF) Diego Garcia, a small but strategically important naval and airbase in the Indian Ocean. A number of cargo and mid-air refueling planes have also joined the strategic bombers.
B-52s have a range of almost 9,000 miles; B-2s have a range of over 11,000 miles with just a single mid-air refueling. Tehran is approximately 3,500 miles away from NSF Diego Garcia; the southern coast of Iran is about 3,000 miles away.
Both aircraft are capable of carrying nuclear payloads. B-52s can carry approximately 70,000 lbs worth of munitions (conventional or nuclear). B-2s can carry about 45,000 lbs but they are stealth-capable, making them an ideal option against targets protected by heavy anti-aircraft systems.
The small naval airbase also houses a Military Propositioning Ship (MPS) squadron. The squadron, which belongs to the Military Sealift Command, can provision a full Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) for up to 30 days of operations.
NSF Diego Garcia sports a single runway (approximately 3.6 kilometers-long). The naval airbase has been utilized for combat operations in that Area of Operations (AO) before. Strategic bombers used it as a staging base in the early days of the Global War on Terror (GWOT).
Tensions with Iran have been sky-high following the targeted killing of Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commanding general of the secretive Quds Force, a combination of CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and arguably the most influential Iranian officer in the Middle East.
Iran’s first response against the killing was a feeble barrage of ballistic missiles against U.S. bases in the Middle East. But that might be just the beginning as Tehran is a master of covert operations.
In a press statement, President Trump said that “Our great American forces are prepared for anything. Iran appears to be standing down, which is a good thing for all parties concerned and a very good thing for the world.”