US Deploys Ballistic Missile Tracking Aircraft to Persian Gulf

The US Air Force (USAF) has deployed one of its RC-135S Cobra Ball ballistic missile tracking aircraft to the Persian Gulf amidst increased tensions between the US and Iran.

The aircraft, fitted with specialist electro-optical sensors designed to track ballistic missiles at standoff range, is one of three aircraft fitted for this specialist missions.

The deployment was first spotted by Twitter user Maleshov, who tweeted, “USAF RC-135S Cobra Ball a measurement and signature intelligence MASINT collector equipped with special electro-optical instruments designed to observe ballistic missile flights at long range 61-2662 PYTHN77 over Persian gulf”

Crewed by a minimum of 10, the RC-135S is normally deployed specifically at the request of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and is often seen in the regions around nations who are developing ballistic missiles or nuclear weapons, such as North Korea or in this case Iran. The easiest way to differentiate the RC-135S Cobra Ball from other RC-135s is the black painted wings, designed to lower the chance of reflections disturbing the tracking systems.

The deployment follows that of highly advanced Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors, which in light of the worsening tensions deployed last week to the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar from their base at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.

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