An IAF plane flies over Sardinia.
An IAF plane. Photo by IDF Spokesman
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Israeli Air Force fighter squadrons have carried out exercises testing their capability to conduct missions at long ranges from base, the Israeli military said Thursday. The drills included air-to-air refueling and dogfights against foreign combat planes.

A report on New Greek TV last Friday, citing the Hellenic Air Force, said the Greek air force took part in the exercises "under a joint military cooperation program."

The drill, with the participation of Israeli F-15s and F-16s and Greek aircraft and naval units, will be carried out in the western Peloponnese and the Myrtoon Pelagos on October 8-9, the report said.

The drill was also reported on the Israel Defense Forces and IAF websites, which hinted that it was related to Iran. In five days, Iran and the so-called P5+1 countries begin talks in Geneva about Tehran’s nuclear program. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu embarked on a series of interviews with European media Thursday, in which he urged to mobilize European public opinion against easing sanctions on Iran.

"All options on the table implies military options as well," the sites said.

"The Israel Air Force, known as the IDF’s 'long arm,' plays a central role in carrying out Israel’s military option if necessary. For this reason, the squadron is exercising and strengthening its range of capabilities through long-range flights as well as other exercises. The IAF must develop these capabilities as appropriate -- whether for focused missions or broad operations," they said.

"During the flight the teams practiced aerial refueling and examined the capability to fly long distances" the site says, without mentioning where the drill is being held.

A film clip on the IAF site shows several F-16I planes that have resumed flying only some two months ago, after being grounded following a plane crash opposite the Gaza shore. In the clip, the planes are being refueled in the air by Boeing 707 Reem tankers.

The IDF blog said the drill was similar to others conducted in recent years to examine "all aspects of a given situation, from its planning stages to the flight itself. This includes mid-flight refueling and the management of the air force control center."

The blog cites a squadron commander who participated in the drill. "Challenges stemming from these long-range flights continue as the plane moves further from its point of origin. These challenges include difficult weather conditions, unfamiliar terrain and threats that could emerge during the flight," he said.

Pilots participating in the exercise said long-range flying demands several hours of concentration and exceptional physical preparation.

The Iranian site PressTV also carried a report of the joint Israeli-Greek drills on Sunday, citing the Greek Hellenic Air Force.