WASHINGTON, March 13 (UPI) -- Forward deployment of the F-22 Raptor could effectively deter Tehran's nuclear ambitions given recent Iranian interests in air defense, an analysis said.
A February review of the Iranian nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency found the intent there was ambiguous. Russia, meanwhile, may be considering the sale of an air defense system to Iran that would, according to some military analysts, render Iranian airspace a "virtual no-fly zone."
A report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy said that if talks fail to persuade Iran to abandon its nuclear program, forward deployment of the F-22 could neutralize the threat.
"Only the F-22 can survive in airspace defended by increasingly capable surface-to-air missiles," said retired Lt. Gen. Mike Dunn, Air Force Association president.
Meanwhile, with U.S. forces relying on the F-15 Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon for counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Washington may have lost some ground in its ability to deal with conventional threats.
"Forward deployment of the F-22 could restore the credibility of the military option by indicating that it remains alive," the report said.