Meanwhile, Camp Arifjan in Kuwait has served as the regional depot for U.S. military ground vehicles in the Gulf, most recently thousands of tanks, trucks, MRAPS, and other armored vehicles departing Iraq. Camp Arifjan is closely linked with the Kuwaiti port of Shuaiba, where the ground vehicles are loaded and unloaded from cargo ships. The Air Force maintains a wing of C-130 Hercules tactical airlifters at Ali al Salem Air Base in Kuwait.
However, Pentagon planners have realized that the current make-up of its forces in the Gulf, which have been largely focused on supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is not adequate for deterring Iran. Therefore, the Defense Department is rushing equipment to the region aimed at countering the Iranian threat.
The recent buildup of U.S. naval forces in the Gulf includes the
1970s-vintage USS Ponce, a transport that was converted this spring into a floating
"lily pad" base for minesweeping operations (it can also
accommodate special operations troops) and that arrived in the Gulf this month.
Four additional Avenger
arrived in the Gulf in late June, bringing the total in the region to
eight. The Navy is also arming its anti-mine forces
in the Gulf with Seafox
mine-hunting undersea drones that can be launched from Avengers or MH-53
helicopters. The Defense Department also announced that the aircraft carrier
USS John C. Stennis will leave for the Gulf in December, four months ahead of
schedule, in order to maintain the presence of two aircraft carriers and their
strike groups in the region through next year.
The Pentagon is also purchasing 40 Raytheon-made Griffin missiles and their associated launchers for use by the Navy's Cyclone class patrol craft stationed in the Gulf. (The Griffin is seen as a tool to defend against swarms of fast-moving speed boats. "Swarming" is a tactic frequently espoused by Iranian sea services as a way to confront large U.S. warships.) The Cyclone class boats are also reportedly having laser targeting devices added to their Mk 38 25 mm chain guns.
The United States is also reportedly set to open a powerful AN/TPY-2 X-Band radar in Qatar that will likely be used, along with two others in Israel and Turkey, to monitor Iranian missile launches, the Wall Street Journal is reporting. U.S. Central Command may also deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Air Defense (THAAD) missile defense system to Qatar in coming months.
The United States and Europe are also helping the Gulf nations
modernize their militaries. "Our approach has been to respond to Iran's ramping
up of its nuclear program with large arms sales to the Gulf," said Eisenstadt.
"The idea is, developing nuclear weapons or advancing your nuclear program will
harm rather than hurt your security because we'll respond by bolstering your
neighbors and therefore you will be more vulnerable to your neighbors."
Most recently, the United States finalized a deal to provide Saudi Arabia with 84 brand new Boeing F-15SA Strike Eagle fighter-bombers and to upgrade 70 of the kingdom's existing F-15S Strike Eagles. The Saudis also received 24 brand new Eurofighter Typhoons in 2011, the first of 72 Typhoons ordered by the Saudis. The Typhoon and the latest versions of the Strike Eagle are among the world's most advanced fighters, designed for both high-end air combat and bombing campaigns. The Saudis have also recently purchased three stealthy air-defense frigates from France and are reportedly considering buying two U.S. made DDG-51 class Aegis-equipped destroyers and an unknown number of littoral combat ships.