The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the US Central Command began a large-scale joint exercise in Israel and over the eastern Mediterranean on Monday.as announced by both armies.
The drill, called Juniper Oak 2023will have the participation of more than 140 aircraft, 12 warships and artillery systems from both countries and will last until Friday, CENTCOM reported in a statement.
A senior US defense official told NBC News the drill was intended to show adversaries such as Iran that Washington is not too distracted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and threats from China to mobilize a large military force.
“This exercise strengthens the US-Israeli collective readiness and enhances the interoperability of both forces, thereby contributing to regional stability. Exercises like Juniper Oak demonstrate that interoperability and integration represent the improvement of security in the region”, stated CENTCOM.
“The exercise will test joint US-Israeli readiness and enhance the operational relationship between the two militaries.”, the IDF said in a statement.
General Michael Kurilla, CENTCOM commander, stated that the drill “enhances our contingency response capabilities and underscores our commitment to the Middle East.”
CENTCOM indicated in its statement that the forces would practice joint command and control; air operations in maritime surface warfare; combat search and rescue; electronic attacks; suppression of enemy air defenses; coordination of attacks and reconnaissance; and air interdiction.
Of the 142 aircraft taking part in the drill, 100 are American, NBC reported, including four B-52 strategic bombers, four F-35 fighters, 45 F/A-18 fighters and two MQ-9 Reaper drones.
CENTCOM further said that F-15 and F-16 fighters, AC-130 combat helicopters, Apache helicopters and other rescue and resupply aircraft would also participate.
The IDF claimed the planes would simulate “various scenarios”, including attacking targets simulating naval threats, and US bombers dropping live ammunition on southern Israel.
According to NBC, The 12 Navy ships participating in the drill include six Israeli Navy ships, and six US ships.the latter of which includes a carrier strike group.
The IDF said the Israeli Navy’s Sa’ar 5-class corvettes and a submarine would take part in the drill. The corvettes will refuel from a US refueling tanker during the drill “to expand the IDF’s ranges and areas of operation in routine and emergency situations,” the Israeli military said.
CENTCOM and the IDF said the drill would also involve high-mobility artillery rocket systems and multiple launch rocket systems, as well as infantry and special forces.
NBC said that approximately 6,400 US troops will join 1,100 Israeli troops for the exercise. Several senior CENTCOM commanders will observe the exercise.
The official who spoke to the network said it was “the most important exercise between the United States and Israel to date,” citing the sheer number of aircraft and personnel involved.
He said the exercise was not geared around a particular nation, but that regional adversaries like Iran would take note, NBC reported. “The scale of the exercise is relevant to a whole series of scenarios, and Iran can deduce certain things from it,” the anonymous official was quoted as saying by the network.
“Actually, it’s primarily intended to test our ability to do things on this scale with the Israelis against a whole host of different threats. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Iran saw the scale and nature of these activities and understood what we are both capable of,” the source added to NBC.
Israel regularly conducts various training exercises with the US military in the country, including air force and missile defense exercises.
In November, the IDF and the US military conducted a series of joint air exercises, simulating attacks against Iran and its regional terrorist allies..
Then-IDF chief Aviv Kohavi stated that month that joint activities with the US military in the Middle East would be “significantly expanded”.
The Times of Israel