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US, Israel begin ‘large-scale’ air, naval and land military drills in apparent message to Iran

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

IAF and AFCENT F-15 and F-16 jets are seen over southern Israel during the 'Desert Eagle' drill, on August 10, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)
IAF and AFCENT F-15 and F-16 jets are seen over southern Israel during the 'Desert Eagle' drill, on August 10, 2021. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Defense Forces and United States Central Command have begun a joint “large-scale” exercise in Israel and over the eastern Mediterranean sea, CENTCOM announces.

The drill, dubbed Juniper Oak 2023, involves over 140 aircraft, 12 naval vessels, and artillery systems from both nations, CENTCOM says.

A senior US defense official tells NBC news that the drill is aimed at showing adversaries, such as Iran, that Washington is not distracted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threats from China to mobilize a large military force.

“This exercise strengthens collective US-Israeli readiness and improves the interoperability of both forces, thereby contributing to regional stability. Exercises like Juniper Oak show that interoperability and integration represent the improved security in the region,” CENTCOM says in a statement.

General Michael Kurilla, commander of CENTCOM, says the drill “enhances our ability to respond to contingencies, and underscores our commitment to the Middle East.”

The IDF does not immediately publish details about the drill.

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