Massive international drill launches in Israel with seven air forces participating

Launched in 2013, the Blue Flag is held every two years to strengthen cooperation between the nations.

By Aryeh Savir/TPS, World Israel News Staff

The Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) international Blue Flag training exercise took off in the Negev on Sunday with the participation of seven air forces, the largest and most advanced aerial exercise ever held in Israel.

The exercise will last for two weeks and end on October 28.

The IDF highlighted this year’s exercise due to “the number of involved countries, the high quality of the drills and the advanced technology used – all of which express the strong relationship and partnership between the air forces and creates a fertile ground for regional and international cooperation.”

Launched in 2013, the Blue Flag is held every two years to strengthen cooperation between the participating nations.

The air forces of Germany, Italy, Britain, France, India, Greece and the US sent teams, with a historic first deployment of a British fighter squadron in Israel since the establishment of the country, as well as the first-ever deployment of an Indian “Mirage” fighter squadron in Israel, and the first deployment of a French “Rafale” fighter squadron in Israel.

The IAF’s Sufa F-16I squadrons, led by the 115th “Flying Dragon” aggressor squadron will play the role of the “red” enemy force. A Yahalom Patriot battery will also join the enemy simulation force.

This years’ drills will focus on the integration of fourth and fifth-generation aircraft, including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, in complex operational scenarios.

For the first time, the international teams will conduct a joint honorary flyover through Israel’s skies. Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, commander of the IAF, will lead the flyover in a Baz F-15 alongside an Israeli “Adir” F-35I. Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, Commander of the German Air Force, will fly alongside them in the “Eagle Star” Eurofighter, which has been specially painted with the Israeli and German flags.

The flyover is expected to fly over the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, on Sunday, October 17, at 15:35PM (Israel time).

“We are living in a very complicated region, and the threats to the State of Israel from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran are only increasing. Holding an international exercise in this current reality, while continuing our public and covert operational activities on all fronts, is of utmost strategic importance and has an extensive impact over the Israeli Air Force, the IDF, and the State of Israel”, stated Norkin.