Israel Air Force opts out of US drill as Iranian threat looms

Israeli F-15s will stay in country after Tehran threatens Israel for attacking Iranian forces in Syria last week.

By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

As tensions rise with Tehran over its escalating presence in Syria and purported willingness to act directly against the Jewish state, the Israel Air Force (IAF) announced that it was cancelling its participation in the US-run “Red Flag” drill in Alaska next month.

Israel has accused Iran of sending an armed drone into its airspace in February from the T4 airbase in Syria, to which it responded by bombing the base twice, reportedly.

The first time was in an almost immediate reaction to the incident, and the authorities openly admitted it. Another strike, however, which was aimed specifically at the Iranian drone unit at the site and killed seven Iranian Guard troops, was only confirmed by an anonymous “senior military official” to the New York Times.

Iran has heated up its rhetoric ever since that strike, with its Ground Forces commander saying Monday that Iran’s armed forces “are much more powerful than before” and that “the date has been set” for Israel’s destruction, according to Tehran’s official Mehr news agency.

This would have been the first time Israel joined the Red Flag event, although it has participated in many other international war exercises together with the American air force. In November 2017, for example, Israel hosted 70 aircraft from seven countries in the Blue Flag training event – its largest-ever air force drill.

Then in February, thousands of US troops came to Israel for five days of drilling together with the IDF and IAF in the biennial Juniper Cobra exercise, which involved a simulation of a two-front, massive missile attack on the Jewish state.

The most recent air drill took place just last month, when the IAF took part in the Iniohos joint exercise in Greece with six countries, including jets of the United Arab Emirates, which has no diplomatic relations with the Jewish state.

According to the USAF, Red Flag is the U.S. Air Force’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise. Hundreds of participants from many different countries are organized into “Red” defensive forces and “Blue” offensive forces, providing dozens of aircrews with the experience of multiple, intensive air combat sorties in the safety of a training environment.