F-22 Raptor
F-22 Raptor iStock

US F-22 fighter jets arrived in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, part of an American defense response to recent missile attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeting the country, The Associated Press reports.

The Raptors landed at Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, which hosts some 2,000 US troops. US officials declined to say how many F-22s deployed or the number of airmen supporting the aircraft, citing operational security.

“The Raptors’ presence will bolster already strong partner nation defenses and puts destabilizing forces on notice that the US and our partners are committed to enabling peace and stability in the region,” Lt. Gen. Greg Guillot, the commander of the US Air Force’s Mideast command, said in a statement quoted by AP.

The deployment comes after the Iranian-backed Houthis launched several attacks on the UAE in recent weeks.

On January 17, the Houthis attacked three oil tankers near Abu Dhabi, killing three people and wounded six others.

Two weeks later, the Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile towards the UAE which was intercepted by the US military.

The attack occurred during the visit of President Isaac Herzog to the UAE.

The Houthis and their allies took over large parts of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa, in 2015. A Saudi-led military coalition then intervened in Yemen to try to restore the government.

It has long been believed that Iran is planning to use the Houthis to take over Yemen and seize the key strategic port of Aden, which controls the entrance to the Red Sea and ultimately to the Israeli resort city of Eilat.

Iran denies it is backing the Houthis and has also denied Saudi Arabian accusations that Tehran provided the Houthi rebels in Yemen with ballistic capabilities.