This is interesting,
David Cenciotti tapped the aircraft spotter universe and realized that the F-22s that are in the Middle East are, based on their tail numbers Block 30 F-22s; meaning the birds aren’t equipped with the gear to perform air to ground attacks. If true, it punches a hole in the theory that the planes would be used to help kick in Iran’s front door. Yes, the jets could still be used to escort long range B-2 stealth bombers, but it really does look like the Raptors and F-15Cs are in the Gulf region to do some joint air-to-air combat exercises (that,conveniently, also give Iran a reminder of our military capabilities) not as part of a potential strike force.
From The Aviationist:
The six F-22 Raptors currently at Al Dhafra, UAE, belong to the 49th Fighter Wing, based at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. They flew as “Mazda 91″ to Moron, Spain, on Apr. 17 and departed again for their final destination on Apr. 20.
Since they spent some 4 days in Spain, during their stay, the stealthy planes were photographed by several local spotters that were able to provide the exact list of all the examples involved in the deployment:
#04-4078, #04-4081, #05-4093, #05-4094, #05-4098, #05-4099.
If they were not willing to let the world know of such deployment they would not make a stopover in Spain, during daylight.
They are all Block 3.0 (or Block 30) examples meaning that neither of them has received the latest upgrade (Block 3.1) that has brought the capability to find and engage ground targets using the Synthetic Aperture Radar mapping and eight GBU-39 SDBs (Small Diameter Bombs) to the troubled stealthy fighter.