Israel set to hold several major joint military drills with US in coming months

Unsourced TV report says exercises to focus on missile defense, coordinated attack on Iran; drills come as IAF faces impaired readiness due to protesting reservist volunteers

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

A CENTCOM HC-130J refuels an IAF Sikorsky CH-53 'Yasur' helicopter over northern Israel, during the Juniper Oak 2023 drill, January 24, 2023. (CENTCOM)
A CENTCOM HC-130J refuels an IAF Sikorsky CH-53 'Yasur' helicopter over northern Israel, during the Juniper Oak 2023 drill, January 24, 2023. (CENTCOM)

The Israeli military is set to hold a number of major joint military drills with the United States in the coming months, including one that would simulate an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to an unsourced television report on Tuesday.

The Israel Defense Forces regularly conducts various training drills with the US military, including air force exercises and missile defense drills.

In January, the IDF and US Central Command held a major drill in Israel, Juniper Oak 2023, the largest-ever joint exercise held by the Israeli and American militaries. Juniper Oak, according to the IDF, was the first in a series of planned drills with the US in the coming year.

According to Channel 12 news, one of the upcoming drills would prepare Israel for a potential multi-front missile attack. US forces would bring to Israel a large number of Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries and other interceptor systems for the exercise, the report said.

The report said another drill would simulate a potential joint Israeli-US attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

A spokesperson for the military declined to comment on the specifics of the upcoming drills, saying only that the IDF regularly conducts joint exercises with the US.

Israeli and American fighter jets fly alongside an American B-52 bomber over the Mediterranean Sea during the Juniper Oak 2023 drill, January 25, 2023. (CENTCOM)

The drills come amid warnings by officials that the readiness of the Israeli Air Force is worsening as thousands of reservists, including hundreds of pilots, have declared they would no longer show up for volunteer duty to protest the government’s plans to overhaul the judiciary.

The military fears further damage could be caused to its battle readiness should more protesting reservists act on their threats. Amid those fears, senior officers have been regularly calling on the protesting reservists to show up for volunteer duty.

The IDF relies heavily on volunteering reservists, especially pilots, for its routine activities. Unlike most reservists who are called up for duty with a formal order for several days a year, pilots and other special forces are expected to train and carry out missions more frequently and in a voluntary manner due to the nature of their positions. The IAF and other top units also rely on veterans to volunteer and train the newer generation with their expertise.

Defense officials have said pilots would harm their competency by taking breaks from their frequent training exercises, and it would take a significant amount of time to restore their flying abilities, if ever.

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