Against the background of the Russian military presence in Syria, and possible fighting in the northern front, on Thursday the Israeli Air Force concluded its second annual exercise, which introduced the entire corps to current combat systems and battle scenarios. As part of the exercises, a senior Air Force officer clarified that when it comes to Russia, Israel will try its best to avoid friction, despite the increasing Russian military presence in neighboring Syria. According to the senior officer, the IDF has forged a clear policy of never downing a Russian plane, even if it has entered Israeli territory, Walla reported.
“Russia is a major player and can’t be ignored, so we’re making a separation—they’re minding their business, we’re minding our business,” the officer explained. “Our policy is that we do not attack or shoot down any Russian plane. Russia is not our enemy. We are trying to avoid going near them, so as not to force pilots into questionable situations, we don’t come near each other — they avoid us, and we avoid them.”
The officer added that the two sides, Israel and the Russians, maintain telephone contact. “We don’t inform them and we don’t ask for information,” he quickly emphasized. “We just do the work that needs to be done.”
However, the IAF exercise that began on Sunday and ended on Thursday was designed to maintain combat readiness at the northern arena, regardless of Russia’s presence. Air crews are preparing for combat in areas where various players in the Syrian civil war have positioned air defense systems, anti-aircraft missiles and shoulder-fired missiles. “I fear the things I do not know about,” said the senior officer, noting that “the ease with which we’ve been able to fly over enemy territory has been decreasing, and each system that tries to knock me down — is a challenge.”