The Saudis have taken up the Pentagon’s offer of tanker support, as a USAF KC-135 has joined Operation Decisive Storm, the Saudi-led offensive combating Houthi rebels in Yemen. The US has announced the support of the operation with daily tanker flights, and has reiterated the fact that the tankers will completely avoid Yemeni airspace.
The Stratotanker has already refueled a Block 60 F-16 from the UAE, as well as a Royal Saudi Air Force F-15, with the potential for many more partners given the number of nations offering up their fast jets for strike missions.
The US has been pulling SOF personnel out in recent months, as Yemen has increasingly become yet another hot spot in the troubled region. Historically, Yemen has been a hive for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, the Gulf of Aden is where the terrorist attack on the USS Cole was carried out.
The US seems to be avoiding directly confronting the Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels intent on taking control of the country, but is sending weapons packages and providing intelligence support to the primarily-Sunni coalition nations.
Will the US get dragged into another Arab conflict? Time will tell, but with nuclear negotiations between Washington and Tehran ongoing, the US has not been too eager to jump into operations in Yemen. The situation has been rapidly deteriorating with Iran now dispatching its Navy to the area.
According to the World Health Organization, a humanitarian crisis is already unfolding, given the number killed, wounded, and displaced due to the fighting.
And now we’ve gotten our feet wet.