A group of F-15E Strike Eagle fighters from the 494th Fighter Squadron arrived at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates Oct. 18 to help support ongoing operations in the Middle East.

The 494th, which is part of the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath in England and is known as the “Panthers," was deployed to help maintain air superiority, defend forces on the ground, bolster partnerships with nations in the region, and “demonstrate a continued commitment to regional security and stability,” U.S. Air Forces Central Command said in a release Wednesday.

The Air Force would not say how many F-15Es deployed, citing operational security concerns.

The fighters are joining a variety of other aircraft already stationed at Al Dhafra, including additional F-15Es, F-35A Lightning IIs, KC-10 Extenders, E-3 Sentrys, and RQ-4 Global Hawks.

The F-35A deployed to the Middle East for the first time in April, when it arrived at Al Dhafra. A few weeks later, some of those F-35s carried out the aircraft’s first airstrikes in combat when they bombed an ISIS tunnel network and weapons cache in Iraq.

Stephen Losey covers leadership and personnel issues as the senior reporter for Air Force Times. He comes from an Air Force family, and his investigative reports have won awards from the Society of Professional Journalists. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover Air Force operations against the Islamic State.

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