New Jersey Air National Guard F-16s deploy overseas to the Middle East

US Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon fighter jets

Military pilots based at Atlantic City International Airport have joined American forces in the Middle East to support counterterrorism efforts in the midst of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The 119th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, a component of the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, arrived overseas earlier this week, according to Air Force Gen. Kenneth Stephen Wilsbach.

These New Jersey-based fighters are now aligned with the Ninth Air Force (Air Forces Central), which currently operates three F-16 squadrons, two A-10 Thunderbolt II squadrons, and one F-15E Strike Eagle squadron.

The 119th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron’s deployment to the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) region increases the Air Force’s fighter footprint in the Middle East to six squadrons.

The situation in the Middle East has become increasingly complex and volatile, with threats to American forces in the region on the rise. U.S. bases in the Middle East have come under attack from militia groups aligned with Iran, leading to concerns about a possible region-wide escalation of the Israel-Hamas war.

A senior defense official pointed out, “What has happened in the last several days is efforts by Iran and Iran proxy forces to seek to escalate this conflict.” These developments have prompted the United States to send additional military assets and personnel to the region.

The New Jersey Air National Guard’s 119th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron’s deployment is part of a broader package of forces sent to address the escalating situation following the Hamas attack on Israel. U.S. officials have ordered the deployment of a Terminal High-altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery and additional Patriot air defense system battalions to the CENTCOM region, as well as placing thousands of U.S. troops on heightened readiness.

The United States is keen on demonstrating its commitment to supporting allies and partners in the region and its ability to respond swiftly to contingencies. This show of strength includes the presence of the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, along with the USS Bataan, which carries Marines, fighters, and helicopters.

The situation remains fluid, and U.S. officials have not disclosed the final destination of these ships or when they will arrive in the region. The deployment of these additional assets underscores the U.S. military’s determination to address and deter threats to American forces in the Middle East.

As the conflict between Israel and Hamas continues to unfold, with a significant loss of life and ongoing violence, U.S. forces are increasingly concerned about the potential for the fighting to escalate further and spread throughout the region. The New Jersey Air National Guard’s deployment is just one part of a broader U.S. effort to address the complex and evolving situation in the Middle East.

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