Israel, US holding another joint air drill apparently focused on Iran

Exercises simulate strikes on ‘strategic targets in depth’ of enemy territory, include American tankers boosting range of IAF fighter jets

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

An American KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft refuels IAF F-16i fighter jets during an exercise over Israel, November 30, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
An American KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft refuels IAF F-16i fighter jets during an exercise over Israel, November 30, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israeli and American air forces on Sunday launched a joint drill, the latest in a series of exercises apparently aimed at readying the Israel Defense Forces for a potential strike in Iran.

In a statement Monday, the IDF said the drill, dubbed Juniper Oak, would include the Israeli Air Force carrying out airstrikes against “strategic targets in the depth,” an apparent reference to Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Additionally, the air drills would simulate “achieving aerial superiority in the region and cyber ​​defense against a variety of threats,” the IDF said.

During the drill, IAF fighter jets were to refuel from an American Boeing KC-46, of which Israel has ordered four and is expected to receive the first in 2025.

For Israel, the KC-46 aircraft are seen as necessary to conduct potential major strikes against targets in Iran, some 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from Israel and far outside the normal flight range of Israeli jets.

“The exercise continues and strengthens the operational cooperation between the militaries and takes place as part of the series of IDF exercises with the US Central Command,” the Israeli military said.

There was no immediate readout from the US CENTCOM on the drill.

Israel 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, also dubbed Juniper Oak, the largest-ever joint exercise held by the Israeli and American militaries.

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