US to send F-16 fighter jets to Gulf amid Iran shipping tensions

US defence official said Washington is considering options amid growing aggression by Russian planes in skies over Syria.

fighter jet
A US Air Force F-16 on patrol over northern Iraq in this undated image [File: US Air Force via Getty Images]

The United States is deploying additional fighter jets around the strategic Strait of Hormuz to protect ships from Iranian seizures, a senior US defence official said, according to a news report.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters on Friday, the official said the US will send F-16 fighter jets to the Gulf region this weekend to augment the A-10 attack aircraft that have been patrolling there for more than a week.

Washington’s increase in military assets in the region comes after Iran tried to seize two oil tankers near the strait last week, the Associated Press (AP) news agency reported.

The defence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide details of US military operations in the region, said the F-16s will give air cover to the ships moving through the waterway and increase the US military’s visibility in the area, as a deterrent to Iran, AP reported.

The US Navy said that in two recent instances, Iranian naval vessels backed off when the USS McFaul, a guided-missile destroyer, arrived on the scene.

The defence official also told reporters the US is considering a number of military options to address increasing Russian aggression in the skies over Syria. The official declined to detail the options but said the US will not cede any territory and will continue to fly in the western part of Syria as part of operations against ISIL (ISIS) fighters.

Russian military activity in Syria, which has increased in frequency and aggression towards US forces since March, stems from growing cooperation and coordination between Moscow, Tehran and the Syrian government to try to pressure the US to leave Syria, the official said.

The most recent incident was on Friday morning when a Russian aircraft flew repeatedly over the al-Tanf garrison in eastern Syria, where US forces are training Syrian allies and monitoring ISIL activity.

The official said the Russian An-30 aircraft was collecting intelligence on the base. The US did not have fighter aircraft in the area and took no direct action against the Russian flight, the official said.

There are about 900 US forces in the country, and others move in and out to conduct missions targeting ISIL.

A still from the video released by the US airforce showing the land below and a Russian fighter jet at close quarters. Its number is clearly visible.
In this image from a video released by the US Air Force, a Russian SU-35 flies near a US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone on July 5, 2023, over Syria. The US says Russian fighter jets have flown dangerously close to several of their drone aircraft over Syria, setting off flares and forcing the MQ-9 Reapers to take evasive action [File: US Air Force via AP]
Source: The Associated Press