Israeli Air Force and US Army hold joint aerial exercise over the Negev

The Israel Defense Forces and the US Army’s Central Command held a joint aerial exercise over southern Israel last week, simulating airstrikes and dogfights, the IDF said Sunday.

The exercise, dubbed “Desert Falcon”, was the last organized by the IDF and the Middle East-based CENTCOM, after Israel officially entered the latter’s area of ​​responsibility last year. Previously, the IDF worked primarily with the US European Command, as Washington feared that Arab countries in the region would oppose cooperation with CENTCOM if Israel did too.

According to the IDF, Israeli pilots from the 119th Fighter Squadron flying F-16 fighter jets and Gulfstream G550 intelligence-gathering jets flew alongside American pilots from the 55th Fighter Squadron flying F-16 jets against the so-called “ Red Squadron” of the IAF, which uses F-16 fighter jets, helicopters and other equipment to simulate enemy forces for exercises. The exercise was conducted from the IAF’s Ovda air base, just north of Eilat, and took place primarily in airspace over the Negev desert.

“Israeli air crews flew ‘side-by-side’ with US crews and simulated joint responses to air threats and strikes on targets, through education, cooperation and mutual growth,” the IDF said.

“The exercise represents an important step in strengthening international strategic cooperation between Israel and the US Air Force, and it contributes to the preparation of our troops,” the Israeli military said.

Although partly symbolic, Israel’s inclusion in CENTCOM is meant to allow easier direct communications between the Israeli military and US troops in the region and, through the US, other armies as well.

In November, for example, the Israeli Navy took part in a major CENTCOM maritime exercise led by the US 5th Fleet, alongside the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Two Israeli F-16 fighter jets and an American fly side by side during a joint exercise in southern Israel in January 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

In the immediate term, this is largely aimed at improving the IDF’s ability to cooperate with the United States and other Middle Eastern countries to counter Iran.

CENTCOM officially assumed responsibility for military-Israeli relations last September, although Israel has continued to hold exercises with US European Command.

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