IDF launches joint air defense, cyber drill with US Central Command

Juniper Falcon is second in series of exercises with American military, after last month’s largest-ever Juniper Oak war games

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

Israel Air Force and US Air Force teams are seen during the Juniper Oak 2023 drill, January 24, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israel Air Force and US Air Force teams are seen during the Juniper Oak 2023 drill, January 24, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces and US Central Command (CENTCOM) launched a joint drill Sunday focused on air defense, cyber security, intelligence and logistics, the Israeli military said.

The IDF said the drill, dubbed Juniper Falcon, was the second in a series of joint exercises to be held with CENTCOM in 2023.

The first was January’s major Juniper Oak drill, the largest-ever joint exercise held by the Israeli and American militaries.

Juniper Falcon is part of the ongoing strategic cooperation between the IDF and the US Army. The IDF held similar drills — using the same Juniper Falcon name — with the US European Command (EUCOM) until 2020, when Israel was moved out of EUCOM’s area of responsibility and into the purview of CENTCOM.

“The exercise will focus on aerial defense, cyber and spectrum, intelligence and logistical scenarios, and will test joint US-Israeli readiness for potential security events,” the IDF said in a statement Sunday.

“The exercise will also strengthen the interoperability between the two militaries,” it added.

There was no immediate statement from CENTCOM on the drill.

An Israeli Air Force officer takes part in the Juniper Falcon exercise in February 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel regularly conducts various training drills with the US military in the country, including air force exercises and missile defense drills.

In November, the IDF and the US military held a series of joint aerial exercises, simulating strikes against Iran and its regional terror proxies.

Then-IDF chief Aviv Kohavi that month said joint activities with the US military in the Middle East would be “significantly expanded.”

Juniper Oak involved some 6,400 US troops alongside more than 1,500 Israeli troops, and over 140 aircraft, 12 naval vessels, and artillery systems, making it the largest-ever joint drill between the nations.

The exercise was widely seen as a message to Iran, however, American officials said the live-fire drills did not include mockups of Iranian targets or of any other adversary.

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