In the shadow of the looming Iranian threat, Israel this month hosted the biennial “Blue Flag” aviation exercise that brought fighter pilots from around the world to the Negev Desert.
“The exercise is of paramount strategic importance considering the mounting regional threats faced by Israel,” said Israel Air Force (IAF) Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin in remarks to Channel 12 News. “It is also a climax [of military cooperation] in light of the quality of training and the sharing of advanced technology between partner nations.”
Participating in the Israeli event were the air forces of the United States, Germany, France, India, Greece, and for the first time the United Kingdom. A German military photographer later inadvertently revealed that Jordanian pilots had taken part in the exercise, a fact that Amman might have wanted to keep quiet for fear of an Islamist backlash.
Those nations sent 80 pilots and more than 1,500 supporting personnel to the Ovda Air Force Base in the southern Negev Desert. From there they trained in the skies over Israel for a future conflict against a fictional foe that looked a lot like Iran and its regional proxies.
A high-level meeting was attended by the chiefs of no fewer than 11 air forces from around the world, including the chief of the Air Force of the United Arab Emirates, Ibrahim Nasser Muhammed al-Alawi.
“We came to learn from the capabilities of the Israel Air Force,” said Col. Vipan, commander of the Indian Air Force delegation, in remarks to Channel 12. “The Israeli pilots have rich operational experience, and we can learn a lot from them.”
Capt. Manfred, a pilot with the German Air Force delegation, said the exercise was important in order to establish a “common language” among allied forces in order to better face down shared threats.
He noted that the German delegation “understands the significance of the German Air Force landing here and training with Israeli pilots. This has great significance for us as well. We have studied history and this is a statement of commitment to the State of Israel.”
When asked by Channel 12 which country had the best pilots, Capt. Manfred chuckled and replied: “Everyone here is good. And everyone has something to learn.”