Israeli and American fighter pilots will take to the skies this week in a joint military exercise over the Arava, near the southern resort city of Eilat, according to the IDF, which said the drill is part of its yearly training program.
The drill is taking place at the Ovda Air Force Base.
Later this year, Israel will also host its largest-ever aerial drill over Ovda in an exercise called ‘Blue Flag’ with the air forces of seven foreign nations joining them in the skies.
The most complex air exercise in the nation’s history, the biennial two-week long Blue Flag drill will include nearly 100 aircraft and several hundred pilots and support crews from the U.S., Greece, Poland, France, Germany, Italy and India.
“It will be a massive exercise; the biggest ever for the IAF. Seven nations plus Israel,” said Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, the Israeli Air Force’s chief of international affairs.
This year four new nations are joining the drill, along with observing officers and attaches from nearly 40 nations.
“People are seeing there’s a lot to learn from Israel. In our tiny airspace and in the environment around us, things are so intense. The Russians are here,” Hecht told Defense News.
“Many of the world’s air forces are passing through here on their way to operations in Syria and elsewhere in the region. So we provide a sort of battle lab in which forces can hone a spectrum of skills needed to combat growing threats,” he added.
It’s not a competitive event, Hecht explained, but rather a drill that emphasizes cooperation that tailors the drill to fit each nation’s requirements and to build relationships.