A massive multinational air force exercise held in southern Israel came to an end Thursday, the Israel Defense Forces announced.
Dubbed Blue Flag, the 10-day exercise continued throughout the fighting in Gaza on Tuesday and Wednesday, “with some adjustments and regard for professional and safety considerations,” the army said in a statement.
The exercise pit 70 combat planes from five air forces against each other in 19 sorties across six different locations around the country. Six more countries sent observers.
The drill included the use of Patriot missile batteries to simulate advanced anti-aircraft fire, likely meant to mimic the Russian-supplied S-300 system.
For two participating militaries, Israel and Italy, it marked the first-ever use of the new stealth F-35 in an international exercise, making it “the most advanced international exercise ever held in Israel,” according to the IDF.
Participating combat planes included six different models, from the F-35 to the older F-15, F-16 and Eurofighter.
Also participating were refueling, cargo and command-and-control planes, two types of helicopters, and a fleet of remote-control drones.
F-16s from Israel’s Squadron 115, the “Flying Dragons,” played the villain in various scenarios, while the F-15s of Squadron 133, the “Knights of the Twin Tail,” led the exercise.
The Israeli Air Force’s “Yahalom” (Diamond) Patriot-missile batteries were also brought in, tasked with simulating surface-to-air fire targeting the airborne jets.
The participating air forces came from the US, Germany, Italy and Greece, while the air forces of Britain, Japan, France, Spain, Holland and Croatia sent observers.
Israel’s Air Force prepared for a full year for the multinational drill, the army said.