12:21 GMT +313 December 2017
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    US Fighter Pilots Set to Fly Israeli Skies in Joint Air Force Drills

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    The US Army has confirmed that Israeli and US pilots will be engaging joint drills this week at Uvda Air Force Base near the Israeli city of Eliat. Aircrews will be trained in a number of exercises at the base’s advance facilities while other squadrons train in the Negev Desert.

    While the role of enemy aircraft will be played by the Israel Defense Forces' "Flying Dragon" or "Red" Squadron, based at Uvda, teams will operate “enemy” missile launchers and radars and infantry troops will be acting as terrorists, according to the Jerusalem Post. Haaretz reported that a number of F-15 fighters have already been sent over by the US; the "Flying Dragon" squad flies F-16 jets. 

    "An international exercise in cooperation with the American air force will begin in the coming days," the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said. "The exercise is based on the annual training plan," according to Algemeiner.

    The US and Israeli armed forces met as recently as March for the 2017 Iniohos exercise in Greece, where the US sent roughly 220 support personnel with its 12 F-16C Fighting Falcons, and they, Italy and the United Arab Emirates flew alongside Israeli jets. For the past two years the Israeli Air Force (IAF) has also taken part in the Red Flag exercise held at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

    US Air Force spokesman Capt. Robert Howard said in a statement at Iniohos, "Multinational training engagements such as these strengthen our relationships, maintain joint readiness and interoperability, and reassure our regional Allies and partners." 

    In the fall, aircraft and crew from Poland, Greece, Germany, the US, France, Italy and India will take part in the Blue Flag drill, hosted by the IAF.

    In March the IAF’s international affairs chief  Lt. Col. Richard Hecht called the Blue Flag exercise "massive,"saying, “People are seeing there’s a lot to learn from Israel. In our tiny airspace and in the environment around us, things are so intense. 

    "The Russians are here … Many of the world’s air forces are passing through here on their way to operations in Syria and elsewhere in the region. So we provide a sort of battle lab in which forces can hone a spectrum of skills needed to combat growing threats, according to Defense News.

    Blue Flag will not host the kind of combat drills seen in Red Flag, but rather will emphasize the need for cooperation as well as satisfy particular requirements for the forces involved.

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    Fighter Jets, joint drills, Israel Air Force, US Air Force, Israel
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