This story was updated Oct. 14 to include new information from the Air Force about an F-15E deployment.

American A-10 “Warthog” attack planes arrived in the Middle East on Thursday as the Pentagon scrambles to keep the nascent war between Israel and Hamas from sparking a broader regional conflict.

Airmen from the 354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, deployed as part of a larger effort to rush firepower to U.S. Central Command, a senior defense official told reporters Thursday.

More advanced military aircraft — including F-35 Lightning II, F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters — are expected to join them in a bid to deter Iran and other militant groups that oppose Israel from jumping into the fray.

“The United States is unequivocal in its support for the defense of Israel and is sending a warning to any entity that would consider taking advantage of this conflict and this war to escalate violence,” the senior defense official said. “Don’t.”

Military spokespeople have declined to answer how many A-10s were dispatched, where they were stationed and what other units might join them. The new forces join the 75th Fighter Squadron’s A-10s from Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, which were already operating in the region.

Warthogs have been a mainstay of military operations in Central Command for decades. Ground forces rely on the A-10 to strafe and bomb tanks, armored vehicles and other enemy targets so they can safely maneuver around an area.

Even as the A-10 continues deploying to the Middle East to discourage Iranian aggression in the region, the Air Force plans to retire the nearly 50-year-old fleet by the end of the decade to make room for more advanced aircraft.

The Air Force’s Central Command branch also announced on X, formerly known as Twitter, that F-15E jets from the 494th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath, England, had arrived in theater on Friday.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall noted at an Atlantic Council event Tuesday that airmen who were due to return to the United States from Central Command will stay in the area, along with the squadrons that had planned to replace them.

That could mean units like the 421st Fighter Squadron at Hill Air Force Base, whose F-35As headed home from a two-month deployment to the Middle East days before conflict erupted in Israel on Saturday, may remain in Central Command. A Hill spokesperson referred questions to the command, which has declined to provide specifics on U.S. air deployments.

“It is DOD policy not to discuss future operations,” the command said in an email Thursday.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin foreshadowed the deployments in a public statement on Sunday, saying the Pentagon already has taken steps to bolster its presence in U.S. Central Command.

“The U.S. maintains ready forces globally to further reinforce this deterrence posture if required,” he said.

Austin flew to Israel on Friday to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and other senior leaders ahead of an expected ground invasion of Gaza.

“The people of Israel have the unwavering support of the U.S., and we are committed to ensuring Israel has what it needs to defend itself,” Austin said in a post on X.

At least 27 American citizens have died in the conflict, and at least 17 others are missing, according to U.S. officials. Hamas has taken an unknown number of Americans hostage.

In response, the U.S. moved the Ford carrier strike group into the eastern Mediterranean as a precautionary measure and to deter those who might look to exploit the conflict. The aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford is the Navy’s newest and most advanced carrier, ferrying around 5,000 sailors and military jets and flanked by cruisers and destroyers.

The Pentagon has not said whether it plans to send other types of aircraft ― like intelligence planes, bombers or aerial refueling tankers ― among the reinforcements.

Kendall noted that an American C-17 Globemaster III transport jet flew to Israel to pick up a “small number” of U.S. troops who were in the country for a military training exercise, Defense One reported Tuesday. The exercise was canceled after Israel was attacked.

“We’ve had a couple of missions I’m aware of where C-17s have brought some people back from Israel,” he said.

The Associated Press reported Thursday the U.S. government was arranging for at least four charter flights each day to evacuate Americans, including dual citizens, students and tourists, out of Israel.

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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