US fighter jets, air defenses headed to Saudi Arabia bringing extra troops to 3,000

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A THAAD interceptor is launched from the Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, during Flight Test THAAD-23, Aug. 30, 2019. Photo from Missile Defense Agency

WASHINGTON (AP/WNCN) – The Pentagon says the U.S. will send several dozen fighter jets along with other aircraft and additional air defenses to Saudi Arabia to help protect the kingdom from Iranian attacks.

The announcement on Friday came hours after Iran said two missiles hit one of its oil tankers traveling through the Red Sea off the coast of Saudi Arabia. No one has claimed responsibility for that attack.

The U.S. will send two fighter jet squadrons, other planes, two Patriot missile batteries and one anti-missile defense system known as THAAD. U.S. officials said the effort will involve about 1,800 service members.

The total of U.S. service members sent to Saudi Arabia recently is around 3,000, including the new air systems and jets.

“Taken together with other deployments this constitutes an additional 3,000 forces that have been extended or authorized within the last month,” the Pentagon said in a news release.

Since May, the Department of Defense has increased the number of forces by approximately 14,000 to the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility, officials said. 

The military aid is a continued response to the suspected Iranian missile and drone attack on Saudi oil facilities on Sept. 14.

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