Gaza flare-up fails to ground five-nation air force drill in south
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Israeli air force hosts US, Germany, Italy and Greece

Gaza flare-up fails to ground five-nation air force drill in south

70 combat planes, including Israel’s F-35 stealth jets in their maiden international exercise, trained ‘with some adjustments’ for fighting, army says

  • A Greek F-16 fighter jet is seen during the "Blue Flag" multinational aerial exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
    A Greek F-16 fighter jet is seen during the "Blue Flag" multinational aerial exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
  • An Israeli Gulfstream G550 (Nashon-Eitan) aerial intelligence spy planes takes part in the "Blue Flag" multinational air defense exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
    An Israeli Gulfstream G550 (Nashon-Eitan) aerial intelligence spy planes takes part in the "Blue Flag" multinational air defense exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
  • A German Eurofighter EFA 2000 takes part in the "Blue Flag" multinational air defense exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
    A German Eurofighter EFA 2000 takes part in the "Blue Flag" multinational air defense exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
  • An Israeli F-35 fighter jet is seen in a hangar during the "Blue Flag" multinational aerial exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
    An Israeli F-35 fighter jet is seen in a hangar during the "Blue Flag" multinational aerial exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jacob Magid/Times of Israel)
  • An Israeli F-35 fighter jet takes off during the "Blue Flag" multinational aerial exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
    An Israeli F-35 fighter jet takes off during the "Blue Flag" multinational aerial exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
  • An Israeli F35 I takes part in the "Blue Flag" multinational air defense exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
    An Israeli F35 I takes part in the "Blue Flag" multinational air defense exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
  • An Israeli F-16 fighter jet is seen during the "Blue Flag" multinational aerial exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
    An Israeli F-16 fighter jet is seen during the "Blue Flag" multinational aerial exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)
  • A Greek F16 fighter jet takes part in the "Blue Flag" multinational air defense exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
    A Greek F16 fighter jet takes part in the "Blue Flag" multinational air defense exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
  • A US F16 fighter jet takes part in the "Blue Flag" multinational air defense exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)
    A US F16 fighter jet takes part in the "Blue Flag" multinational air defense exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

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.

Israeli F-35 fighter jets roll on the tarmac during the “Blue Flag” multinational aerial exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP)

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.

A US F-16 fighter jet takes part in the “Blue Flag” multinational air defense exercise at the Ovda air force base, north of the Israeli city of Eilat, on November 11, 2019. (Jack Guez/AFP)

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.

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