The two week-long Blue Flag exercise, which began on November 2, brings seven air forces – Italy, India, France, the United States, Poland, Germany and Greece – to the Ovda base in southern Israel.
This drill marks the first time German or French aircraft have trained over Israeli skies. It is also the first time that India joins the bi-annual exercise.
"We are providing them with a high-tech playground," said Col. Itamar, commander of the Ovda base, whose full name was not permitted for publication.
Over 1,000 personnel from the eight countries, including Israel, participate in the event, which the Israeli Air Force billed as having a "profound strategic meaning" for "strategic-international cooperation."
The main benefit of the exercise was diplomatic. Even air force officers, though they attributed operational importance to it, said the very fact that such an exercise could be held in Israel— with major countries participating in it— was the principal achievement. This fact paints Israel as the most stable country in the region, they added.
Despite the various scenarios practiced, which involved joint flights by planes from different countries, the army understands that for the foreseeable future, there are no scenarios in which Israeli planes will have to fly together with those of other countries on an operational mission.
From an operational standpoint, the air force said the most important parts of the exercise were the dialogue between the different air forces, the experience of working together with squadrons one hasn’t trained with, and the debriefings, which were attended by representatives of all the participating air forces.
The countries will face off against a simulated enemy force played by the Israeli army's Squadron 115.
"It's not about winning or losing, but about improving combat readiness," Itamar said.
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