Six Israeli F-35 stealth fighters landed in Italy last week to participate in a two-week air training exercise with the Italian Air Force, as well as those of the United States and the United Kingdom, as part of the larger and more remote machine. On Sunday, the military said it was still operating.
Although the exercise’s official goal is to improve the overall capabilities of the F-35, which entered service in late 2016, a senior Israeli Air Force officer admitted that the exercise – dubbed Falcon Strike 2021 – was partly aimed at Israeli preparation. The pilots’ use of the combat aircraft against Iranian forces.
“Iran is the focus of our concerns,” the senior official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
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The exercise runs from June 6-17, but it won’t start in earnest until Monday. Although Israeli F-35s have participated in international exercises in the past, this will be the first time the aircraft will fly alongside F-35s from three other countries.
In addition to the F-35s from Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy, American F-16 fighters will participate in the exercise, as well as a Gulfstream Etam and two Israeli Boeing RIMs. The Italian KC767 refueling aircraft, the Italian KC130J refueling aircraft, the Italian Gulfstream “Eitam” reconnaissance aircraft and the British Voyager A330 refueling aircraft.
They will encounter a fleet of Italian aircraft that will play the role of “Red Team”, simulating enemy flight, including Eurofighter Typhoon, AMX International, Panavia Tornado, Predator drones and Bel Augusta helicopters. .
During the exercises, which will take place both in the Italian territory and the Mediterranean, the British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth will also be used.
A large number of surface-to-air missile batteries will be used in the exercises against the F-35 fighters, according to an Israeli Air Force officer, in order to create a “threatening atmosphere.”
Israeli F-35 fighters will participate in two sorties per day. During the first, Israeli planes will fly with the Americans, while in the second they will fly with the British and Italian air forces.
During these missions, Israeli pilots will simulate air strikes on targets behind enemy lines and ground reinforcement missions, all while flying over unknown territory.
In addition to dealing with threats from surface-to-air missiles, Israeli aircraft will also participate in air combat.
These exercises are aimed at improving the capabilities of the F-35 fleet and the Israeli Air Force’s ability to work with foreign military personnel, according to the officer interviewed.
The Israeli Air Force took delivery of its first F-35 fighters in December 2016 and acquired more in groups of two and three over the next four and a half years, until completion. The current fleet of 27 aircraft. Another 23 F-35s are expected to arrive in Israel by 2024 to complete the IDF’s latest order for 50, although Israeli officials have said they intend to acquire more.
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