Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson's Unit
A large-scale joint combat drill underway involves F-35 squadrons from Israel, Italy, the United States and Britain, June 2021.

(JNS) A large-scale joint combat drill underway in Italy, involving F-35 squadrons from Israel, Italy, the United States and Britain, represents a major learning opportunity for all involved, an Israeli fighter-jet pilot taking part in the exercise told JNS in recent days.

The squadrons are stationed at the Amendola Air Base in eastern Italy, though much of the drill is taking part over the shores of Sardinia.

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An Israeli Eitam airborne early warning and control aircraft is providing services to multiple air forces taking part, and Israeli mid-air refuelers are also involved, filling up the tanks of Israeli F-35s as well as aircraft from other countries.

“The drill involves a relatively wide range of threats,” said the pilot, Maj. T (full name withheld), of the 140 Golden Eagle F-35I Squadron.

“In Israel, we are not used to holding drills with so many F-35 participants. The red team [which simulates the enemy] is very strong here. There are tens of ‘enemy’ planes of all types simulating enemy threats.

These are relevant to our own arena: Surface-to-air missile batteries, both tactical short-range ones and strategic ones that have long ranges, and broad ranges practicing the destruction of targets on the ground and air-to-air missions.”

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Yaakov Lappin is a military and strategic affairs correspondent. He also conducts research and analysis for defense think tanks, and is the Israel correspondent for IHS Jane's Defense Weekly. His book, The Virtual Caliphate, explores the online jihadist presence.