Israel and the United States are to begin a joint training exercise for anti-missile defenses next week. Active anti-missile systems will be tested in the context of the exercise, dubbed Juniper Cobra, a traditional biennial drill for the two armies. The exercise itself includes simulations of various threats to the Israeli home front.
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American units belonging to the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) are expected to arrive in Israel to reinforce the Israeli anti-missile systems.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel landed in Israel on Wednesday, and is scheduled to meet Thursday with his Israeli counterpart, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, and later to visit the Hatzor air base.
The U.S. Army reported that he will be addressing Israeli and American forces participating in the exercise.
According to the announcement, planning for the exercise began 18 months ago and is unrelated to any perceived tensions in the region.
Official EUCOM sources said the Juniper Cobra exercise has been taking place every two years since 2001, and is designed to test the armies’ joint capability in response to a missile attack.
The joint activity with the Americans is considered extremely important by the Israel Air Force and the country’s aerial defense system. They see Juniper Cobra as an opportunity to improve preparedness and coordination with their counterparts from the United States.
During Hagel’s visit to Israel, he is also scheduled to meet with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hagel arrived in Israel as part of a regional tour that included visits to Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
In 2012, the Americans and Israelis decided to postpone the joint drill, apparently out of a desire to reduce tensions with Iran. Toward the end of that year there was a similar Israeli-American exercise, called Austere Challenge, in which the Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. Army practiced the interception of aerial targets, with U.S. Patriot missile batteries deployed in northern Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
During the Juniper Cobra exercise in 2009, the main scenario was an Iranian missile attack against Israel.