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Israel Defense Forces: EU-Israel Joint Air Force Training

(Updated June 2017)

During the final week of October 2011, the Israeli Air Force took part in a large-scale, distance-strike joint training operation together with pilots from the Italian, Dutch and German Air Forces at the Decimomannu Air Base on the island of Sardinia in the Meditteranean Sea.

The maneuvers included several different bombing scenarios in addition to long-distance missions and midair fueling.

The IAF has the need to train for long-range missions in the case of any future attack on the nuclear facilities in Iran and the georgraphical limitations of Israel does not allow the proper space for such training. As such, the IAF trains with Italian forces on the island of Sardinia biannually.

"We have to train away from our home-base and this drill was an excellent platform," Lt.-Col. L., who commands the IAF squadron heading the Sardinia maneuvers, told an Israeli news organization. "We trained for distant-strikes, long-range missions and every possible scenario."

Israel brought 17 fighter jets (F-16 C and D models), 3 "Oryx" refueling tankers and a Gulfstream 5 G-550 radar plane for the manuevers. The Italian, Dutch, German and NATO forces also supplied Eurofighter planes. NATO reportedly also used its famed Typhoon jet – considered one of the best multi-combat fighter jets in the world – in the exercise.

"The pilots flew in unfamiliar skies, which allowed them to deal with things they don't normally encounter," Lt.-Col. L. said. "If we want to be prepared for war we have to train in unfamiliar terrain."

Israeli and Greek Air Force pilots participated in joint training exercises dubbed “blue and white glory” during September 2015. Greek planes and helicopters landed at Israeli bases, and conducted flights over the Negev desert. The pilots practiced attack missions, and rescuing their downed comrades. Six helicopters and two fighter pilot squadrons from Greece participated in these drills.

An international exercise took place over two weeks in April 2016, including the U.S., Greek, and Israeli Air Forces. The pilots trained against a replica of the Russian S-300 missile system recently sold to Iran, with a special focus on preparing the Israeli pilots for a potential confrontation.

Blue Flag

In November 2013, fighter planes from the Greek and Italian Air Forces joined their counterparts from the U.S. to conduct joint training manuevers in Israel, codenamed Exercise Blue Flag. The drill represented the largest military air exercise in Israel's history to date, as more than 50 foreign and Israeli fighter jets were involved. The exercises' goals were to examine the group's general aerial capabilities and it included training missions to identify anti-aircraft missiles as well as surface-to-air ones and also included mock dogfights. Aerial refueling, attacks on fixed as well as moving targets, and damage assessment exercises were also included in the training. The Blue Flag exercise has been held multiple times since November 2013, most recently in October 2017. Germany participated in the Blue Flag exercise for the first time in June 2017, and India participated for the first time in November 2017, joining planes from regular participants Israel, the United States, France, Italy, and Poland.  Below, you can find a video about the October 2015 Blue Flag Exercise.

Sources: Israel Defense Forces,
YouTube (IAF);
Yoav Zitun. “IAF, US Air Force hold largest joint military exercise in Israel's history,” YNET News (November 25, 2013);
Arie Egozi. “Israel hones skills in joint drill with Greek Air Force,” FlightGlobal (September 28, 2015);
Noam Amir/Maariv Hashavua. “A look into the IAF's latest international exercise,” Jerusalem Post (May 10, 2016);
Gili Cohen, In First, Germany to Send Fighter Jets to Train in Israel, Haaretz, (June 21, 2017);
In a first, Indian team heads to Israel for combat drills, India Times, (November 1, 2017).