By Erin Viner
International military aircraft flew in from the United States, Germany, Italy, France, India and Greece to take part of the largest and most advanced aerial exercise ever hosted in Israel – including the first-time participation of the United Kingdom.
Additional historical events during the IAF aerial wargames include the first flight of a French “Rafale” and Indian “Mirage” fighter squadrons in Israel, or training by UK fighter jets since the British Mandate.
The drill has been held every 2 years since 2013 to strengthen cooperation among Israel’s allies through shared experience with integrating 4th and 5th-generation jets in complex operational scenarios. Simulations include drill air-to-air and air-to-ground combat, threats posed by advanced surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and warfare in the skies over enemy territory. The IAF Sufa F-16I and 115th “Flying Dragon” squadron will act as enemy forces equipped with a Yahalom Patriot battery.
The 2-week, international training is centered in the southern Uvda airbase in the Negev Desert, and kicked off yesterday with an overflight of the Knesset in the skies of Jerusalem by the IAF and German Luftwaffe. It will officially conclude on 28 October.
IAF Commander Major General Amikam Norkin is leading Blue Flag 2021. He told TV7 “Watchmen Talk” host Amir Oren that as he flew an F-15 alongside the IAF’s latest F-35 aircraft, his wingman on the honorary flyover was German Air Force Chief Lieutenant-General Ingo Gerhartz.
“We are living in a very complicated region, and the threats to the State of Israel from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran are only increasing,” Gen. Norkin pointed out, stressing that the “holding an international exercise in this current reality, while continuing our overt and covert operational activities on all fronts, is of utmost strategic importance and has extensive impact over the Israeli Air Force, the IDF and the State of Israel.”
“This exercise is groundbreaking in terms of technology, quality of training, and the number of participating nations. It illustrates the partnership and strong bond between the nation’s air forces and acts as a stepping-stone toward regional and international cooperation,” emphasized the IAF Commander.