The Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) international “Blue Flag” training exercise kicked off in southern Israel on Sunday.
The 13-day drill, in which the air forces of Germany, Italy, Britain, France, India, Greece and the United States are taking part, is held the Negev Desert and will end on October 28.
The Israeli army surprised its soldiers on Monday with an unprecedented military maneuver, during which reservists were called up to a number of units in the army Ground Arm.
According to the army spokesman, the exercise included making phone calls and sending text messages to reservists. Some soldiers were asked to inform their units, according to the instructions provided.
The drill aimed at checking and improving the readiness of reservists, the spokesman noted, adding that it will continue until Tuesday evening as part of the 2021 training program.
“During the exercise, the participants will simulate in-air battles and ground-to-air battles and will practice addressing the threat of advanced surface-to-air missiles and combat behind enemy lines,” he explained.
Launched in 2013, the Blue Flag is held every two years to bolster cooperation between the participant countries.
This years’ drills will focus on the integration of fourth and fifth-generation aircraft, including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, in complex operational scenarios.
For the first time, the international teams conducted a joint honorary flyover through Israel’s skies.
IAF Commander Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin will lead the flyover in a Baz F-15 alongside an Israeli “Adir” F-35I.
Lt.-Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, Commander of the German Air Force, will fly alongside in the “Eagle Star” Eurofighter, which has been specially painted in the colors of the German and Israeli flags.
“We are living in a very complicated region, and the threats to the State of Israel from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran are only increasing,” said Norkin.
“Holding an international exercise in this reality, while continuing our public and covert operational activities on all fronts, is of utmost strategic importance and has an extensive impact over the Israeli army and state,” he added.