The year’s largest joint military exercise is now officially underway in the State of Israel with U.S. and Israeli troops joining forces in the two week-long Juniper Cobra 2018 across the country.
More than 4,500 soldiers from the IDF and the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) are meeting the challenge of simulations designed to improve the abilities of the two forces to better coordinate their efforts on the battlefield.
“It’s great to be here in Israel and it’s great to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Israeli counterparts as we participate in Juniper Cobra ‘18,” U.S. Army Colonel David Shank told reporters Thursday. “This is a bilateral exercise; it’s a ballistic missile exercise and it’s an exercise that provides us the opportunity to continue to strengthen our partnership and deepen the cooperation that we have with our Israeli partners.”
This year’s exercise, which runs from March 4 – 15, simulates a large, multi-front ballistic missile attack – ostensibly by Iran and its terrorist proxies – that may actually be quite similar to that which American and Israeli forces could be facing in wartime in the near future. A significant number of American troops will remain for continued, additional training until the end of the month.
“The ‘Juniper Cobra 2018’ exercise will serve as an opportunity for the IDF, and the IAF in particular, to enhance operational capabilities in the face of high-trajectory threats,” said Israeli Air Force Aerial Defense Array Commander, Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich.
“The exercise demonstrates the strategic and fundamental cooperation between the IDF and the US Armed Forces. In the coming weeks we will train together to face complex and challenging scenarios, which are relevant to the dynamic range of threats that we must be prepared to face.”
Officials from both Israel and the United States acknowledged that the troops were preparing for the possibility they may indeed have to fight “shoulder to shoulder” against a massive ballistic missile attack on Israel — although no specific enemy was identified in any of the briefings with journalists.
On Tuesday, the USS Iwo Jima arrived off the coast of Israel and Thursday morning, the USS Mount Whitney docked at Haifa port. The U.S. has committed 1,400 Marines to this year’s exercise, along with 1,100 Navy personnel. There are 2,000 IDF troops participating as well, making this year’s drill the largest of the nine joint combat exercises conducted between the two countries.
The drill will also employ Israel’s multi-layered aerial missile defense system, which includes the Iron Dome interceptor against short-range threats, the Patriot interceptors and the David’s Sling system against medium-range threats, and the Arrow missile defense system against long-range and intercontinental ballistic missile threats from beyond the atmosphere.
The Americans are also testing their defense systems as well, which include the Aegis, the Patriot, the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) and the TPY-2 radar system.