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Joint U.S.-Israel Air Force Red Flag Exercise

(March 12-24, 2023)

The U.S. and Israeli air forces held a two-week-long joint exercise – “Red Flag” – at the U.S. Air Force Base in Nellis, Nevada involving some 100 aircraft scheduled to fly twice a day. An IDF statement said the two forces would train for a variety of scenarios:

Strategic attack in depth, achieving aerial superiority in space, joint attack aircraft, defense of field cells, interception of enemy aircraft, low-altitude flight and attack in unfamiliar terrain rich in anti-aircraft defenses. In addition, there will be a joint aerial refueling in which Israeli refueling planes will refuel American fighter jets, and Adir (the F-35I) planes will be refueled using American KC135 refueling planes. For the first time, seven Adir planes and two Ram (the Boeing 707) planes will participate in the exercise in U.S. skies.

The refueling exercise is believed to be related to a potential attack on Iran, as Israeli aircraft would need to refuel to complete a mission 1,200 miles away.

“The Israeli F-35 participation in Red Flag 23-2 is another step forward for America and its allies in the transition to the next level of air warfare,” said Col. Jared Hutchinson, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander. “It’s a rare opportunity for warfighters from both countries to integrate our most advanced capabilities.”

The U.S. Air Force said the exercises aim to “provide aircrews the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment.”

Senior Airman Megan Estrada noted, “The Nellis and Nevada Test and Training Range has approximately 2,200 targets, realistic threat systems, and an opposing enemy force that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world.”

Due to members of the IAF observing Shabbat, exercises were scheduled on Sunday instead of Saturday.

The IAF participated in Red Flag exercises in 2002, 2004, 2009, 2015, and 2016.

Sources: Megan Estrada, “Red Flag Nellis 23-2 underway,” Nellis Air Force Base, (March 13, 2023).
“The Israeli Air Force will Participate in the U.S. Air Force “Red Flag” Exercise,” IDF, (March 12, 2023).
“Israeli, U.S. Air Force begin joint ‘Red Flag’ military exercise,” i24 News, (March 12, 2023).
Emanuel Fabian, “IAF fighter jets, refuelers hold air drill with US forces, thought to focus on Iran,” Times of Israel, (March 12, 2023).

Photo: F-35I Adir, U.S. Air Force/William R. Lewis, Public domain.