US Air Force temporarily deploys six fighter jets to Israeli airbase

IAF says that during deployment at Nevatim, American F-15s and Israeli F-35s and spy planes will hold joint drills

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

Israeli F-35i and American F-15 jets hold an exercise over Israel, November 29, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)
Israeli F-35i and American F-15 jets hold an exercise over Israel, November 29, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The United States Air Force on Monday deployed six fighter jets to an Israeli Air Force base in southern Israel, as part of a military tactic to constantly disperse its aircraft at various airbases.

According to the IAF, during the deployment at the Nevatim Airbase, the six F-15s would conduct joint drills with Israel’s fleet of F-35 stealth fighters and a squadron of intelligence-gathering Gulfstream G550 planes.

The drills, set to take place this week, would simulate strikes deep in enemy territory, the IAF said.

The deployment by the US Air Forces Central Command (AFCENT) is part of a doctrine called “agile combat employment,” under which aircraft are dispersed at forward operating positions in allied countries around the globe, rather than at the US’s traditional main overseas bases.

The doctrine seeks to both deprive enemy forces of opportunities to damage the US Air Force, and to enable it to more quickly respond to events, according to American defense officials.

It was not immediately clear how long the AFCENT jets would be stationed at Nevatim.

In November, the Israel Defense Forces and the US military held a series of joint aerial exercises, simulating strikes against Iran and its regional terror proxies.

IDF chief Aviv Kohavi that month said joint activities with the US military in the Middle East would be “significantly expanded.”

Israeli F-35i and American F-15 jets hold an exercise over Israel, November 29, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

Israel has been pushing for the US to prepare military contingency plans in order to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Jerusalem opposes US President Joe Biden’s attempts to revive a nuclear agreement between Tehran and world powers that traded sanctions reliefs for curbs on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.

But that issue has been less relevant lately, as nuclear talks have fizzled and the US has chosen to focus on addressing the ongoing protests in Iran against the regime.

Biden has said he is prepared to use military force if necessary, but still prefers to exhaust the diplomatic route first.

Amid the growing uncertainty regarding a return by Iran to the deal, the past two years have seen the IDF ramp up efforts to prepare a credible military threat against Tehran’s nuclear sites.

While Iran long has maintained its program is peaceful, non-proliferation experts warn Tehran has enough 60 percent enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.

Israeli officials have also warned of Iran’s proxies across the region, from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Houthis in Yemen, as well as other groups based in Syria.

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