The US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, arrived in
Israel on Sunday to oversee the largest air defense drill of its kind, which is
currently under way.
Dempsey met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak in the
Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv last night. He is expected to be saluted
by a guard of honor ceremony on Monday and will likely meet with IDF Chief of
Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.
The two military leaders are expected to tour
areas where the missile defense drill is being held. The majority of the
exercise, named Austere Challenge 12, involves the computer simulation of long
and mediumrange missile attacks on the Israeli home front, and their
One thousand American soldiers are on Israeli territory to
take part, and a further 2,000 US troops in Europe and the US will take part via
remote defense computing systems. An equal number of Israeli soldiers are
involved. The exercise will end with a live-fire interception of an incoming
missile by a Patriot air defense battery.
One of the objectives of the
drill is to facilitate the rapid deployment of US missile defense systems to
Israel and to test their ability to work with Israeli systems during a
Dempsey has warned in the past against a unilateral Israeli
strike on Iran’s nuclear program sites, saying in August that he did not want to
be “complicit” in such an operation. Lt.-Gen. Craig Franklin, US Third Air Force
commander and the senior American commander in Israel for the exercise, said
earlier this month that the drill is “a defensive exercise” that it has no
relation to any real world events.
“Anyone can take away any message they
want from this,” said the IDF’s Brig- Gen. Nitzan Nuriel, who is heading the
Israeli side of the exercise. “The fact that we are working together is a strong
message by itself.”