Israel Air Force Plans Inviting Foreign Air Forces to a Multi-National Air Exercise in 2013

Italian Air Force Typhoon takes off from IAF Base Ovda. The aircraft carries two IRIS-T air/air missiles. Photo: Nehemia Gershuni,
Italian A.F. Typhoon at Ovda. Photo: Nehemia Gershuni

The Israeli and Italian Air Forces on Friday completed a two-week joint training exercise involving fighter jets from both nations. The exercise involved pilots flying F-16A, F-16C and F-15Is from three Israeli squadrons, pitted against Italian Air Force pilots flying Eurofighter Typhoons and Panavia Tornado strike fighters. (Photos: courtesy of Nehemia Gershuni.) This was the second joint exercise the Italian Air Force is conducting with the Israel Air Force in the IAF Airbase in Ovda, near Eilat, flying over the Israeli air/ground and air/air training range in the southern Negev desert. A similar exercise took place two months ago at the Italian Air Force at the Decimomannu Airbase in Sardinia.

Italian Air Force Typhoon takes off from IAF Base Ovda. The aircraft carries two IRIS-T air/air missiles. Photo: Nehemia Gershuni,

The IAF has been training extensively in recent years with the air forces of Italy, Greece and Romania, following the Turkish government decision to terminate joint training with Israel. In 2013 the IAF plans to invite a number of foreign air forces to a ‘red flag’ style multi-national joint exercise, to further elevate international cooperation with friendly nations. On the final day of the exercise, defense and air attaches from a number of countries, including the U.S., Germany, Canada, Spain, Chile, Brazil, Greece, Turkey, Hungary and Japan were attending and briefed by top IAF officers about future joint training opportunities. The IAF considers the Israeli ‘desert flag’ will provide a multinational training environment similar to the Turkish hosted ‘Anatolian Eagle’ exercise which Israel was forced to abandon since 2008. The IAF has also participated in the Red Flag and Maple Flag exercises in the U.S. and Canada, however these involved extremely long flights and significant expenses that could be saved by conducting overseas training closer to Israel, across the Mediterranean sea.

Israel operates an aggressor squadron flying F-16s from the base in Ovda. For the recent exercise the squadron doubled the number of aircraft operated against the visiting aircraft, adding F-15I and F-16C fighter planes from northern IAF bases. A large instrumented combat range located north of the base is scattered with targets simulating active surface-to-air missile sites, radar emitters and electronic warfare threats realistically represented surface based threats and targets, offering modern strike fighters an excellent training environment.

The exchange is beneficial for the Israel Air Force as it offers the Israeli opportunities an important opportunity to train in dissimilar air combat, against unfamiliar combat aircraft they could meet at war. It also opens vast and unfamiliar training areas for the Israeli pilots, in neighboring countries, offering the Israeli pilots realistic and challenging missions at extended ranges – missions they canot perform realistically over their small home land.

For foreign air forces the training in Israel and with the reputable Israel Air Force provides an opportunity for pilots to gain unique experience in more realistic combat conditions they are used to in their training areas, particularly concerning electronic combat, self protection and engagement of surface-to-air weapons.

An Italian Air Force (ITAF) Eurofighter Typhoon takes off while an Israel Air Force (IAF) F-16C taxi for takeoff from IAF Base Ovda, during a joint aerial exercise that took place at the base last week. Photo: Carmel Horowitz, IDF