In first, IAF to fly in British air exercise Cobra Warrior
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In first, IAF to fly in British air exercise Cobra Warrior

Israeli pilots to fly alongside Royal Air Force counterparts in the aerial drill in September, as cooperation between the two militaries becomes more public

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

Israeli fighter jets performing an aerial show at a graduation ceremony at the Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev desert, December 26, 2018. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)
Israeli fighter jets performing an aerial show at a graduation ceremony at the Hatzerim Air Base in the Negev desert, December 26, 2018. (Aharon Krohn/Flash90)

Israel was invited to take part in a British aerial drill later this year, in the first joint exercise of its kind between the two countries, the United Kingdom’s military said Thursday.

The Cobra Warrior exercise, scheduled for September, would be the first time that Israeli and Royal Air Force fighter jets openly train together.

“The Israeli Air Force will be participating in Exercise Cobra Warrior in September 2019,” a British Ministry of Defense spokesperson said, confirming unattributed reports in UK Jewish news sites.

The Israeli military refused to comment on its participation in the exercise.

Cobra Warrior, once known as the Combined Qualified Weapons Instructor exercise, serves as the culminating drill before pilots and navigators can be certified as a qualified weapons instructor, an expert in their field.

Germany participated in the Cobra Warrior exercise in September 2017.

The exercise, which is held near Lincolnshire, is designed to replicate real-world scenarios for the pilots.

The RAF and IAF have an extensive working relationship, but typically keep their cooperation quiet.

They are, for instance, among the few air forces in the world to operate the F-35 stealth fighter jet and thus share technical knowledge and experiences.

RAF pilots took part in Israel’s Blue Flag international exercise in 2017, but as spectators, not with their own aircraft. The British air force may fully participate in the upcoming Blue Flag exercise in 2020, which would be the first time RAF pilots openly flew in Israeli airspace — save for the cases of the RAF ferrying British dignitaries to the Jewish state for visits.

The Israeli military, and the air force in particular, is seen as a useful tool in expanding the Jewish state’s ties to foreign countries.

The air force often refers to this as “aerial diplomacy.”

Under the banner of military drills, Israeli pilots are able to do what Israeli politicians and diplomats cannot. The IAF, for instance, has participated in air exercises with the United Arab Emirates and Pakistan, two countries that do not formally recognize the State of Israel.

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