As tensions continue to rise between Iran and Israel, both countries are holding large-scale aerial exercises.
Israel and seven nations – Germany, Italy, Britain, France, India, Greece and the US – are participating in Blue Flag 2021, the largest and most advanced aerial exercise ever held in the Jewish state.
This year’s drills will focus on the integration of fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft, including the F-35 Adir in complex operational scenarios, the Israeli military said.
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi visited the drill on Thursday and was informed of what was learned so far.
“This is an important and significant exercise, at both the strategic and tactical level,” he said, adding that “the unique cooperation with the air forces from around the world is an expression of the strategic state of the State of Israel.”
The exercise will focus on “broadening and enhancing the operational capabilities of the participating forces,” with a focus on air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks, as well as evading ground-based air defense systems “and various operational scenarios in enemy territory,” the army said.
The two-week drill which is taking place in the Negev desert out of Uvda Airbase marks the first time that a British fighter squadron has been deployed to Israel since the establishment of the state as well as the first time that India has sent a Mirage fighter squadron to Israel and that France has deployed a Rafael squadron to the Jewish state.
Israel Air Force commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin, who took part in a symbolic flyover over Jerusalem alongside his German counterpart Lt.-Gen. Ingo Gerhartz last week, said that the threats posed to Israel continue to increase and that the drill is a “stepping stone” toward cooperation with other countries in the region.
“We are living in a very complicated region, and the threats to the State of Israel from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iran are only increasing,” he said. “Holding an international exercise in this current reality, while continuing our public and covert operational activities on all fronts, is of utmost strategic importance and has an extensive impact over the Israeli Air Force, the IDF and the State of Israel.”
“This exercise is groundbreaking in terms of technology, quality of training, and the number of participating nations. It illustrates the partnership and strong bond between the nations’ air forces and acts as a stepping-stone toward regional and international cooperation,” Norkin said.
Meanwhile, Iran’s Air Force kicked off Modafe’an Aseman-e Velayat 1400 (Guardians of ‘Velayat Sky’ 1400) on Thursday, which is aimed at testing the capabilities of the Islamic Republic’s Air Force.
According to the Iranian Fars News Agency, the drill will see the use of indigenous and upgraded systems and weapons, including heavy and semi-heavy smart bombs, all kinds of laser, television, thermal, radar missiles, rockets and bombs.
Iranian F-4, F-5 and F-7 fighter aircraft as well as Sukhoi Su-27s, F-14s, Mirage F1s, and MiG-29s, are taking part in the drill.
Iranian Air Force Commander Brigadier General Hamid Vahedi was quoted by Press TV as saying that the “long-range endurance of the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force fighter jets outside their defensive spheres, pinpoint accuracy of bombs and rockets in air-to-surface strikes as well as surveillance of the operational zone” will be put to test during the drills.”
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