Israel Air Force to Participate in U.S. Drill Alongside Pakistani, U.A.E. Jets

Israel sending land and air crews, as well as F-16 jets, to Red Flag air-to-air combat exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen
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An Israeli Air Force F-16.
An Israeli Air Force F-16.Credit: Yuval Tebol
Gili Cohen
Gili Cohen

The Israel Air Force is set to take part in a large-scale aerial exercise in the United States later this month. According to reports, teams from the Pakistani and United Arab Emirates air forces will also be taking part in the Red Flag air-to-air combat exercise in Nevada.

Israel will be sending land and air crews, as well as F-16 fighter jets, to the exercise, which is one of the biggest in the world. Haaretz asked the IDF spokesman to comment on the Israeli military’s policy on training with teams from Pakistan and the U.A.E. – countries Israel has no diplomatic relations with – but received no response.

The IAF has been preparing for the exercise over recent months, including the long-distance flight from Israel to the Nellis Air Force Base in southern Nevada. Flying the F-16s to the United States will require several fueling stops along the way, as well as midair refueling.

The IAF also participated in last year’s exercise, which simulates aerial combat fighting. The participating teams are put in a “blue” team and a “red” team, and these hold dogfights with one another.

Teams from the United States, Israel, Singapore and Jordan took part in last year’s exercise. At the time, it was reported in foreign media outlets that Israeli aircraft even refueled Jordanian jets en route to the United States for the exercise.

An IAF officer who took part in last year’s exercise called it “the biggest and best simulation of war in the world.”

The teams that took part in the exercise practiced intercepting aircraft, attacking targets, rescuing pilots and flying under the threat of anti-aircraft missiles.

The Nellis Air Force Base website didn’t disclose which air forces will be participating in the upcoming exercise. However, aerial enthusiast websites reported that teams from Spain and the U.A.E. will be taking part. Spain’s Ministry of Defense reported that the Spanish Air Force sent teams to the exercise last weekend. Pakistani media outlets also reported that Pakistani F-16s were en route to the United States.

The Aviationist, a website devoted to reports on military aviation, stated that Pakistani F-16s landed in Portugal 10 days ago, on their way to the exercise.

According to the website, the Pakistani aircraft will take part in both the Red Flag and Green Flag exercises. Both Pakistan and the U.A.E. have taken part in Red Flag in the past.

Although Israel has no official diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates, it recently opened a mission in Abu Dhabi, ostensibly to uphold ties with the United Nations’ International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) that’s headquartered there. Foreign Ministry Director General Dore Gold visited the U.A.E. capital in 2015.

“The IAF routinely trains in Israel and abroad in order to keep operationally prepared for various scenarios,” the IDF spokesman said. “Red Flag is a high quality and unique exercise. Once the IAF was invited to participate, it accepted.”

The IDF added that the teams taking part this year didn’t participate in Red Flag last year. Israel was also invited to the exercise in 2014, but had to withdraw for budgetary reasons.

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