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

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 US military’s Central Command held a joint aerial exercise over southern Israel last week, simulating airstrikes and mid-air dogfights, the IDF says.

The exercise, dubbed Desert Falcon, is 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 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 says.

“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 says.

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