Israel Holds Largest Air Force Exercise During UAE Air Force Chief’s Visit

Israel held its biggest air force exercise this week, which several Western countries and India joined. The commander of the United Arab Emirates Air Force (AU) is scheduled to inspect the exercise.

Amir Lazar, Israel’s air force operations chief, told reporters the drills were “not focused on Iran,” but military officials said the Islamic republic remained Israel’s main strategic threat and was central to much of its military planning.

Israel has held a “Blue Flag” exercise every two years since 2013 in the Negev desert.

Some preliminary exercises had already started in the last week.

Other countries taking part in the exercise this year include France, the United States and Germany, as well as Britain, whose planes flew over Israeli territory for the first time since the creation of the Jewish state in 1948.

With more than 70 fighter jets – including Mirage 2000, Rafale and F-16 – and about 1,500 personnel participating, the exercise is the largest ever held in Israel, Lazar told reporters at Ovda air base in southern Israel.

Ibrahim Nasser Mohammed Al Alawi, commander of the United Arab Emirates’ air force, landed in Israel on Monday, the Israeli military said in a statement.

Although the UAE aircraft did not fly in the Exercise, Lazar said the visit of the country’s air force chief was “very significant.”

The agreement that saw Israel normalize relations last year with several Arab countries, including the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco, has “opened up various opportunities,” Lazar said Sunday. [lt/rs]

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