search

Israeli Air Force, US military hold joint aerial drill over Negev

‘Desert Falcon’ exercise is latest cooperation between IDF and America’s Middle East-focused Central Command

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Two Israeli and one American F-16 fighter jets fly alongside one another during a joint exercise in southern Israel in January 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Two Israeli and one American F-16 fighter jets fly alongside one another during a joint exercise in southern Israel in January 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces and the American military’s Central Command held a joint aerial exercise over southern Israel last week, simulating airstrikes and mid-air dogfights, the IDF said Sunday.

The exercise, dubbed “Desert Falcon,” was the latest one held by the IDF and the Middle East-based CENTCOM, after Israel officially moved into the latter’s area of responsibility last year. Before then, the IDF had worked predominantly with the US European Command, as Washington feared that Arab countries in the region would oppose cooperating with CENTCOM if Israel did too.

According to the IDF, Israeli pilots from the 119th Squadron operating F-16 fighter jets and intelligence-gathering Gulfstream G550 planes flew alongside American pilots from the 55th Fighter Squadron operating F-16 jets against the IAF’s so-called “Red Squadron,” which uses F-16 fighter jets, helicopters and other equipment to simulate enemy forces for exercises. The exercise was conducted out of the IAF’s Ovda Air Base, just north of Eilat, and was held primarily in the airspace over the Negev Desert.

“The Israeli air teams flew ‘shoulder-to-shoulder’ with American teams and simulated joint responses to aerial threats and strikes on targets, through education, cooperation, and mutual growth,” the IDF said.

“The exercise represents an important milestone in the strengthening of international-strategic cooperation between Israel and the American air force, and it contributes to the readiness of our troops,” the Israeli military said.

Though partially a symbolic move, including Israel in CENTCOM is meant to allow easier direct communications between the IDF and American troops in the region and, through the US, other militaries as well.

In November, for instance, the Israeli Navy participated in a major CENTCOM maritime exercise led by the US 5th Fleet, alongside the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Two Israeli and one American F-16 fighter jets fly alongside one another during a joint exercise in southern Israel in January 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

In the immediate term, this is largely intended to improve the IDF’s ability to cooperate with the US and other countries in the Middle East to counter Iran.

CENTCOM officially assumed responsibility for the military’s relationship with Israel last September, though Israel has continued holding exercises with the US European Command.

read more:
comments
Never miss breaking news on Israel
Get notifications to stay updated
You're subscribed