The Defense Department is sending six B-52 bomber aircraft to the Diego Garcia military base in the northern Indian Ocean as preparations for possible military action against Iran move forward.
Pentagon officials told CNN on Monday that the B-52 will be available for operations against the Islamic Republic if ordered into action, though the deployment does not signal a decision has been made about any attack plans.
This is the second time in the last year that the American military has deployed B-52 bomber aircraft to the region due to rising tensions with Iran.
In May, the White House ordered six B-52s to deploy to an American military base in Qatar as well as other bases in ‘southwest Asia’ after it received reports of alleged threats from Iran.
The Pentagon is deploying six B-52 Stratofortress bombers (like the ones seen in the above stock image) to a military base in the northern Indian Ocean, according to a CNN report from Monday
The strategic bombers were on their way Monday to Diego Garcia, an atoll that is home to a vital US military base
Diego Garcia, which is located about 1,000 miles off the southern tip of India, is more than 3,000 miles from Iran. The Pentagon says the base was chosen as the site where the aircraft will be deployed because it is out of range of Iranian missiles
Diego Garcia is a British Indian Ocean Territory and the largest of the islands in the Chagos Archipelago about 1,000 miles south off the coast of India
The Chagos Islands were colonized by France in the 18th century and African slaves were shipped in to cultivate coconuts.
In 1814, France ceded the islands to Britain, which in 1903 merged them with Mauritius, its colony about 1,200 miles to the south-west.
In 1965, Britain separated the Chagos Islands from Mauritius, paying £3million for them.
When Mauritius became independent in 1968, the islands remained under British control, and were renamed the British Indian Ocean Territory.
In 1966, Britain leased the islands to the United States for 50 years.
Between 1968 and 1973, about 2,000 Chagos islanders were evicted.
Most were shipped to Mauritius and the Seychelles.
Evicted islanders enlisted the help of human rights lawyer Amal Clooney when they took their fight to the Supreme Court in 2015, but the court ruled against them.
The secretive military base on Diego Garcia, the largest island, has been dubbed 'the Guantanamo of the East' amid suspicions it was a key staging post in the US rendition and torture program.
In 2016, the US lease was extended to 2036.
The American presence there can be attributed to the fact that Diego Garcia's location is strategically vital.
Diego Garcia has been a launching point for US military actions in the Middle East - including the 2001 campaign against Afghanistan following the September 11 attacks and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The horseshoe-shaped atoll of Diego Garcia (right) measures about 17 square miles. It is surrounded by about 60 other atolls. The coastline of Diego Garcia form a natural harbor, making it ideal to station a naval base there
It is also a refueling station for Air Force jets that patrol the South China Sea.
Diego Garcia was also designated an emergency landing spot for space missions by NASA.
The future of the American presence on the atoll was thrown into doubt earlier this year when a United Nations court ruled that the British illegally seized control of the island.
The court, in a nonbinding ruling, said that control over the territory should be returned to Mauritius.
Diego Garcia is home to between an estimated 3,000-5,000 American military personnel.
There is also believed to be a small number of British soldiers stationed at the site as well as civilian contractors mostly from Mauritius.
These contractors are believed to cook and clean for the soldiers and sailors.
The horseshoe-shaped atoll measures about 17 square miles. It is surrounded by about 60 other atolls.
The coastline of Diego Garcia form a natural harbor, making it ideal to station a naval base there.
Diego Garcia is also a tropical paradise that is home to a significant population of turtles, giant migrating birds, and coconut crab.
The US military has long been tight-lipped about Diego Garcia.
Unlike the base in Guam, spouses of military personnel are not allowed on the atoll.
It was also reported that Diego Garcia was used as one of the CIA's 'black sites' - the secret rendition program in which the Americans interrogated and tortured suspected Islamic extremists.
Source: Business Insider
Diego Garcia is a large atoll that hosts a US military base. The atoll is located about 1,000 miles off the southern tip of India.
A Pentagon official told CNN on Monday that aircraft is being deployed to Diego Garcia this time in order to keep the planes out of the