F-15 and F-16 Fighter aircraft from four Israel Air Force squadrons deployed to Sardinia for two weeks in November, to train with the Italian Air Force. Photo: IDF

The Israeli and Italian air Forces concluded an extensive, two-week exercise in Sardinia today. Members from four Israel Air Force fighter squadrons participated in the exercise, “The Twin-Tail Knights” and “The Spearhead” flying F-15Cs and Ds from the Tel-Nof base, and the “Defenders Of The South” and “The Golden Eagle” squadrons from the Nevatim IAF base, flying F-16. The exercise was the first international training deployment of the “Eitam” (G550), an Early Warning & Control aircraft aircraft. The Italian element in the exercise played the ‘red team’ of adversary air force, challenging the Israelis with Eurofighter Typhoons, AMXs, Panavia Tornado and F-16s ‘aggressors’.

International training deployments are essential for the IAF to maintain pilot skills in extended range operation, under changing weather conditions, over unfamiliar areas, fly at low altitude over the vast uninhibited areas of the island, perform precision navigation flights and practice cooperation with foreign NATO elements as part of coalition operations. The IAF is deploying to Sardinia for several years. In October 2009 Israeli Air Force F-15E and F-16I also deployed to Cagliari base in Sardinia, to participate in a similar exercise. According to Lt. Col A., “The Golden Eagle” squadron leader, the international training program will incorporate more air forces in the future, and the Italian Air Force plans to deploy aircraft on training missions to Israel in the future.

Two weeks later, eight Italian Tornado strike fighters deployed to Israel Air Force Base at Ovda for eight days. Ovda is located in the southern Negev desert near the city of Eilat, where they ‘fought’ against the IAF ‘Flying Dragon’ playing the ‘red team’  aggressor squadron. The Italians were able to experience unfamiliar desert areas, simulating potential contingencies. The area around IAF Base Ovda is instrumented to represent realistic targets typical of full scale conflist as well as asymmetric (hybrid) warfare, along with air defense threats, providing a high level of realistic training unavailable in Europe. Training in such conditions effectively introduces NATO pilots to potential missions.

Few weeks ago IAF helicopters units were deployed to Greece and Romania for similar training. Earlier this summer a CH-53 helicopter was lost over the Karpatian Alps, killing its crew of five personnel, during one such international training session. In past years the IAF was regularly training in Turkey, under the Anatolian eagle and bilateral cooperation training agreement Israel and Turkey established in past years. However this cooperation ceased this year under government pressure.

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