Israel Air Force prepares to train with Luftwaffe over Germany for first time

Monday exercise will be air force’s only international drill in 2020; Israeli aircraft to fly over Munich to mark 1972 Olympics massacre, and over Dachau to commemorate Holocaust

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

An Israeli F-16 fighter jet en route to an exercise in Germany in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)
An Israeli F-16 fighter jet en route to an exercise in Germany in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli Air Force will take part in its first ever exercise in Germany on Monday, flying dozens of sorties with the Luftwaffe and other NATO countries’ air forces, over the course of two weeks, the military said.

This will be the only international exercise to which the IAF will send aircraft this year, in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“This exercise has great strategic importance and has immense influence on the air force, the IDF, and the State of Israel. Israeli-German relations and the arrival of Israeli Air Force planes on German soil is a historic event,” the IAF said.

On Tuesday, the IAF is also scheduled to perform a flyover with the German Air Force, flying over the Dachau concentration camp, in memory of the Holocaust, as well as over the outskirts of Munich, to commemorate the murder of 11 Israeli athletes in the 1972 Olympics, the military said.

An Israeli pilot enters an F-16 fighter jet that will take part in an exercise in Germany, in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

Though the Israeli Air Force has performed flybys over former Nazi concentration camps before, this will be the first time that the German Luftwaffe will participate.

We will be “flying side by side with the Israeli Air Force for the first time in our history,” Ingo Gerhartz, chief of the German Air Force, told the German press agency dpa last Thursday.

An Israeli airman shows a patch for an aerial exercise that is due to take place in Germany in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

According to the Israeli military, six F-16 fighter jets, two Gulfstream G550 command-and-control planes, and two Boeing 707 planes will travel to Germany for the two-week exercise.

“Holding this exercise at this time comes from a need to continue to hold exercises in unknown landscape, as part of the importance of preserving the fitness of the air force, of being able to deal with a variety of scenarios and in order to preserve the close cooperation between the [Israeli] Air Force and foreign air forces,” the military said.

The IAF said the exercise would include simulated dog-fights, air-to-ground attacks, advanced surface-to-air missile threats and operations behind enemy lines.

The air force’s flyby over Dachau and then Munich — known as “Memory for the Future” — will include the Israeli Gulfstream plane and F-16 fighter jets, along with two German Eurofighter jets.

The flyby will be led by IAF chief Amikam Norkin, who will fly the lead Gulfstream with his German counterpart Gerhartz; and the first female commander of an IAF air squadron, who can only be identified by her rank and first initial of her Hebrew name, Lt. Col. “Gimel.”

Israeli Air Force chief Amikam Norkin, left, looks at an F-16 fighter jet that will take part in an exercise in Germany in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

Following the flyby, a joint memorial ceremony will be held in Dachau, which will be attended by German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff, Norkin, Gerhartz and other attaches.

An IAF officer whose grandfather survived the Dachau concentration camp will speak at the ceremony, which will be broadcast live on the IDF’s social media channels.

Following the Dachau event, air force commanders Norkin and Gerhartz will hold a smaller memorial ceremony at the monument to the 11 Israeli athletes killed by Palestinian terrorists in the 1972 Munich Olympics, the IDF said.

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