The first-ever large multi-national military exercise will take place in Israel in two weeks as squadrons from the United States, Greece and Italy arrive in the Negev for Blue Flag 2013, which Israeli military commanders hope will be the inaugural annual training event for allied air forces.
Until recently, Israeli pilots have had to fly to Europe and North America to train in mock-combat against crews from friendly countries.
Over the last few years, however, the IAF has increasingly opened up its advanced combat training facility at Uvda airbase near Eilat, hosting a number of European squadrons there.
Uvda is the home base for the IAF’s “Agressor” squadron which simulates enemy fighters in training sorties, and its facilities are in high demand from other air forces seeking to benefit from the IAF’s combat experience.
The IAF used to have a close relationship with the Turkish Air Force, regularly taking part in the multi-national Anatolian Eagle exercises that often took place over Turkish territory, near the Syrian and Iranian borders.
Since the crisis between the two countries, the IAF has increased its co-operation instead with European allies such as Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Romania and Poland, using their airspace to simulate combat missions over unfamiliar territory and hosting those countries’ squadrons at Uvda.
Blue Flag is modelled on the Red Flag exercises in the United States, which have been taking place since 1975. In the US version, American and allied air forces from around the world carry out a two-week mock air-battle against “aggressor” aircraft.