Israel’s air force hosted for the past two weeks an international air drill with the air forces of Israel, the United States, Greece and Italy, simulating aerial combat as well as individual and combined aerial training, Israel’s army said .
The “Blue Flag” exercise, the first of its kind hosted by Israel’s air force, was held at Ovda airbase, 60 km (38 miles) north of the Red Sea resort of Eilat in southern Israel.
The air force said that the training activities included casting ammunition simulations and avoiding ground-to-air missiles while flying in low altitudes.
Italian air force pilot Lieutenant-Colonel Massimo Gelmini said the drill was a “great experience.”
“It’s been a great experience for us participating in the ‘Blue Flag’ exercise, keep up with our continues training, to retain our high level performance, training in such a terrific and very nice playground environment with tactical threats and tactical air to air combat players,” he told media crews who were invited to cover the drill.
Also attending was U.S ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, who was asked by journalist whether the drill’s timing had any connection with the fact that Western powers just clinched a nuclear deal with Iran. He rejected such possibility but said that “all options are on the table”.
“This drill was planned way before what happened in Geneva, there is no connection to what’s happening regarding the negotiations with Iran. But, to answer your questions, all options are on the table because the goal is what’s important – to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. We’ll do whatever it takes,” Shapiro said.
Israeli F-16 and F-15 squadrons participated in the drill, as well as American F-16E planes, Greek F-15 BI52 planes and Italian AMX and Tornado planes.
The goal of the exercise, according to the Israeli air force spokesperson unit, was to demonstrate and improve operational capabilities and generate mutual learning.