Air Force to launch multinational blue flag exercise over Israel next week

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The Israeli Air Force will hold a massive multinational air exercise from next week until the end of the month, which will include overflights over Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, the military said Thursday. .

Teams from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Greece and India will participate in the fifth biennial Blue Flag exercise, the Israel Defense Forces said.

A variety of fourth and fifth generation aircraft will participate in the exercise, including the F-35, F-15, Eurofighter, Dassault Rafale and
Dassault Mirage 2000.

“The objective of the exercise is to strengthen international strategic cooperation, learning and deepening coordination of fifth and fourth generation aircraft in a challenging operating environment, with an emphasis on strengthening and developing operational capabilities of the air forces. IDF said in a statement.

“During the exercise, participants will simulate air battles and surface-to-air battles, and practice handling the threat of advanced surface-to-air missiles and fighting behind enemy lines,” the military said.

According to the IDF, this will be the “largest and most advanced” Blue Flag exercise, which first took place in 2013. It will be the first time in the country’s history that pilots from the Royal Air Force will fly fighter jets over Israel, as well as the first time Indian Air Force Mirage jets and French Air Force Dassault Rafale jets will fly over Israel.

Indian airmen stand at attention at the Israeli Air Force’s Ovda Air Base ahead of Exercise Blue Flag in October 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

“We live in the most complicated environment, with escalating threats to the State of Israel from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iran. Holding this international exercise, in the current reality, while continuing to carry out operational activities – open and covert – on all fronts is of the utmost strategic importance, ”said IAF chief Amikam Norkin.

“The exercise is at a high point in terms of the number of participating countries, the quality of the exercise and the level of technology. It expresses the strong cooperation and connection with the air forces of the countries and represents fertile ground for regional and international cooperation, ”he said in a statement.

Although most of the participants have already landed in Israel, the exercise will officially begin Sunday and end on October 28. It will take place from the Ovda air base, near Eilat.

French Dassault Rafale fighter jets land at Ovda Air Base in southern Israel ahead of Exercise Blue Flag in October 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

On the first day of the exercise, the Israeli Air Force and the German Luftwaffe will fly over Jerusalem at 3.35 p.m. and use colored smoke to “paint” the sky in the colors of the Israeli and German flags. said military.

“The flyby expresses the strong partnership and connection between the air forces and countries, as well as the commitment to continue cooperation in the future,” the IDF said.

German Air Force Bundeswehr Eurofighters, Israeli Air Force F-16 jets and a Gulfstream plane fly in formation over Dachau Concentration Camp in Germany, on August 18, 2020 (Israel Defense Forces)

Israeli planes will be led by IAF chief Amikam Norkin, while German planes will be led by Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz. The pair also flew over Dachau concentration camp in Germany earlier this year.

Prior to the flyby, Norkin and Gerhartz will visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem.

In addition, the fighter jets participating in the exercise will conduct a separate low-altitude flight over Jerusalem and Tel Aviv on Sunday afternoon, the military said. Planes will be seen over Tel Aviv around 4:45 p.m. and over Jerusalem from 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., the IDF said.

The IAF last hosted the Blue Flag air exercise in 2019, with the participation of representatives from the United States, Greece, Germany and Italy.

The Israeli Air Force credits the biennial Blue Flag and other international air exercises for improving its capabilities, as it allows both Israeli pilots to see how other air forces operate and their operations. also learns how to communicate effectively with foreign pilots and crews, which could be useful if Israel ever participates in a multinational military operation.

At a broader strategic level, these international exercises also strengthen diplomatic relations between participating countries.

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