The United States, continuing its military buildup for a possible offensive attack against Iraq after Jan. 15, is sending 300 more planes to the Persian Gulf region in the next several weeks, Pentagon officials said Friday.
The additional aircraft would increase to about 1,200, from 900, the number of Air Force planes in the region.The Navy and Marines have about 600 to 700 aircraft in the region or on the way, primarily aboard the six aircraft carriers that will be in the area by early next year.
The aerial buildup improves the air supremacy that the United States and its allies hold over Iraq, and highlights the importance that military planners are placing on Allied air superiority to avoid a prolonged and costly ground war with Iraq.
Counting British, French and Saudi Arabian aircraft, the Allied coalition would have more than 2,000 planes in the region. The Iraqi Air Force has about 600 fighters.
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Defense Secretary Dick Cheney said three weeks ago, when he announced the deployment of more than 150,000 U.S. reinforcements to the gulf region, that additional U.S. aircraft would also be sent.