Israeli Military, U.S. Army Begin Drill Simulating Missile Attack on Israel

Joint exercise has been in the works for a long time, and isn't meant to convey any type of message, says Israeli top officer.

Air defense systems stationed at the Hatzor Air Force Base in central Israel for the Juniper Cobra joint military exercise on February 25, 2016.

The IDF and the U.S. Army began a drill this week simulating a large-scale missile attack on Israel in which American forces are called to aid Israel in intercepting rockets.

Some 1,700 American soldiers arrived in Israel as part of the exercise, which for the first time incudes the "David's Sling" rocket interception system, also known as "Magic Wand." According to the Israeli air force, the system is set to become operative this year.

The "Juniper Cobra" drill mostly includes simulations, but at its end the air force will complete a shooting range that will likely include the Iron Dome and Patriot systems. Unlike previous drills, this time the U.S. Army won't participate in the range.

The commander of the U.S. air force in Europe and Africa, Lt. Gen. Timothy Ray, noted that the exercise is taking place "regardless of any development in the area." He added that the drill is only one example of the strong relations between Israel and the U.S., and that support of Israel is part of American policy.

His Israeli counterpart, Brigadier General Zvika Haimovich, added that the drill has been in the works for a long time, and isn’t meant "to convey any type of message."

Regarding Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah's threats to strike ammonia plants in Haifa, Haimovich said that Israel is better prepared in its defense against missiles than it was during the Second Lebanon War and even than in recent years. However, he stressed that "there is no airtight defense that everything that will be launched at Israel would be intercepted. In the next major war rockets and missiles will fall on Israel."  

Asked about Russian activities in the region, Haimovich said that "the Russians aren’t an enemy. Their presence here is a fact. The role of the air defense system is to protect the country's skies and prevent enemy penetration at any time and any place. We want to avoid miscalculation."