The development comes against the backdrop of US-led efforts to build an international coalition that will patrol the Strait of Hormuz as tensions with Iran continue to drastically escalate. US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles fighter jets have joined maritime and surface warfare drills in the Persian Gulf as tensions with Iran continue to escalate, the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) reported. Based out of Al Dhafra Air Base, the UAE, and attached to the 336th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, the jets are reportedly fitted with clusted bombs.”Their [the F-15Es’] role is to conduct combat air patrol missions over the Arabian Gulf and provide aerial escorts of naval vessels as they traverse the Strait of Hormuz. The F-15E is a dual-role fighter designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions and is currently conducting Surface Combat Air Patrol (SuCAP) operations to ensure free and open maritime commerce in the region”. According to The Drive, some of the aircraft were fitted with Wind Corrected Munition Dispensers (WCMD), a GPS-assisted intertial navigation system guided canister that can carry a variety of cluster munitions. Beyond cluster bombs, the F-15Es are said to carry a pair of AIM 120C Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and two AIM 9-X Sidewinder short-range infrared homing missiles. In line with the American strategy of “maxium pressure” against Iran, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo invited Germany, France and the UK into the new international coalition, along with Japan, Australia, Norway, South Korea and other countries. While Berlin refused to take part in it, London announced its own plans to “put together a European-led maritime protection mission” in response to the seizure of the UK-flagged vessel.