US planes to fly in Israeli Air Force exercise this week
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US planes to fly in Israeli Air Force exercise this week

Israeli, American pilots head to Ovda air base, north of Eilat, for joint maneuvers in the skies over the Arava desert

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israeli and foreign fighter jets fly in formation through cloudy skies over the Negev desert during the 'Blue Flag' exercise at Ovda Airfield near Eilat on October 27, 2015. (Israeli Air Force)
Israeli and foreign fighter jets fly in formation through cloudy skies over the Negev desert during the 'Blue Flag' exercise at Ovda Airfield near Eilat on October 27, 2015. (Israeli Air Force)

American and Israeli pilots will take to the skies for a joint exercise near the southern city of Eilat this week, the army said.

The drill will take place at the Israeli Air Force’s Ovda air base, just north of Eilat.

Ovda is the home of the air force’s Flying Dragon Squadron, also known as the Red Squadron, which plays the role of enemy aircraft during simulations. It is made up of F-16 fighter jets and Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters.

“In the coming days, an international exercise, in cooperation with the American air force, will take place at the Ovda air base,” the army said in an email. “The exercise is part of the annual training plan.”

The Haaretz newspaper reported that US Air Force F-15 fighter jets will take part in the exercise.

Later this year, Israel will host its largest-ever aerial exercise in Ovda — known as “Blue Flag” — bringing in seven air forces from around the world.

For the first time, Indian aircraft will train in Israel as part of Blue Flag, as well as France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Poland and the US, Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, the IAF’s international affairs chief, told Defense News earlier this year.

Officers and other representatives from nearly 40 countries will also attend.

“People are seeing there’s a lot to learn from Israel,” Hecht said. “We provide a sort of battle lab in which forces can hone a spectrum of skills needed to combat growing threats.”

In March, Israel and the US took part in an international exercise in Greece, along with the United Arab Emirates and Italy.

The 11-day drill consisted of “complex air operations” and also included naval and ground forces, according to Greece’s air force.

That reportedly included training exercises against the Greek air force’s S-300 missile defense battery, the same type of system used by Iran.

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