The Israeli Air Force, commonly known by its acronym IAF, concluded its annual international “Blue Flag” exercise, which also included an active operational activity by the participating Israeli Squadrons against the Islamist organizations in the Gaza Strip.
In addition to the IAF several air forces participated in the exercise, including those of Germany, Italy, Greece and the United States; while others took part via observation, including Japan, the United Kingdom, Croatia, the Netherlands, Spain, and France.
Almost 70 fighter jets of six different kinds participated in the exercise, most of the airplanes belonging to foreign air forces, as well as an IAF F-35 control aircraft. The drill also included tankers, cargo planes, two different types of helicopters, UAVs, and an Italian F-35 control aircraft that participated for the first time. According to Israeli Lt. Col. S., who is the Commanding Officer of the “The One” Squadron, “Blue Flag 2019 is an international air force exercise it is actually the most advanced exercise that we have had until this point. We combined the use of the Israeli and Italian Adir and F-35 jets, fourth-generation jets, F-16i, F-15 and Eurofighter Typhoons in collaborative missions both on land and in the air.”
The visiting military personnel from the various participating air forces voiced their satisfaction with their advanced exercise, which included fourth and fifth generation aircraft. Senior Italian Upper Operations Representative Col. Luciano Di Sarno said “This is a great opportunity for training, especially in air defense training and cooperation with other jets. We are doing also cooperation from fourth and fifth-generation jets, so it’s a great opportunity for us.” Greek Commanding Officer of 335 Squadron in the Hellenic Air Force Lt. Col. Panagiotis Katsikaris voiced the opinion that “This is a unique experience for all of us because it gives us the opportunity to cooperate in a very demanding environment, both in terms of operational level and in terms of environmental and geographical features.” Technician in the German Air Force First Sgt. Enrico Master Sargeantadded that “The Eurofighter with two seats is here with us in Israel to give pilots of other nations the opportunity to fly in a Eurofighter. Usually, the Eurofighter is a single-seat Jet. The training Jet with two seats is perfect for this purpose. We had one Israeli f-16 pilot flying with us in our jet. This was the first time, but some more will follow.”Among the European and other undisclosed foreign air force involved the largest delegation was sent by the United States. Capt. Erin Recanzona, who is the 52 Fighter Wing Chief of Public Affairs of the U.S. Army, said that “Just from the U.S. alone, we brought about 250 people, and those are going to be maintainers, pilots -that you would expect, but also logistics readiness and then all of those people with their counterparts from the other nations that are participating so that we can all learn from each other. I am thrilled to be a part of the Blue Flag exercise. It’s just amazing to have an opportunity to work with so many different nations, to have that fifth and forth gen’ [generation] integration as well with the Israeli F-35’s and then our F-I6’s and the other aircraft from the different nations that are participating in this exercise.”
During the multinational drill a meeting was held between commanders of armies and air forces from various countries. Among them were the United States, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, Greece, Croatia, and Cyprus.