Israel, US cancel missile defense drill
By YAAKOV KATZ
“Austere Challenge” was billed as largest such drill in country's history; officials cite technical, logistical issues.
Israel and the US canceled a
missile defense drill, billed as the largest ever in the country's
history, planned for the spring, senior military officials said Sunday.
Initially scheduled for April
and called "Austere Challenge," the drill was supposed to see the
deployment of thousands of US troops and various sophisticated US
military equipment in Israel.
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recent weeks, Defense Minister Ehud Barak's office has held talks with
the Pentagon about the possibility of canceling the drill.
Senior military officers told The Jerusalem Post
that the drill scheduled for April has been canceled, while defense
officials said that it was possible that it would be held later in 2012.
drill, expected to involve the deployment of thousands of US troops in
Israel, was scheduled to last around a week and mark the first time that
a top US military commander would participate in the simulations.
The parties were scheduled to simulate
missile defense scenarios with the objective of creating a high level of
interoperability so that, if needed, US missile defense systems would
be able to work with Israeli systems during a conflict.
Officials refused to elaborate on the reasons behind talks to
postpone or cancel the drill, but said they were mostly "technical and
Talks about postponing the drill took the Americans, as well as the
Israeli Air Defense division, responsible for missile defense, by
surprise. Just last Thursday, top IAF officers had said that the drill
was scheduled for this spring.
This year’s drill was expected to be unique in its size and scope and also mark the
first time that commander of the US European Command, Adm. James
Stavridis, would participate in the simulations. In the event of war, the
EUCOM commander will be responsible for approving Israeli requests to
deploy US missile defense systems in Israel.
The planned drill had caused tension in the region amid concern that
Israel is planning an attack against Iran's nuclear facilities in the
near future, and therefore is bolstering its defenses together with the
It is possible that talks about postponing the drill can also be
contributed to increased American concern that an Israeli strike is
Later this week, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz will fly to
Brussels for a meeting of NATO military commanders and will return to
Israel on Thursday to greet Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US
Joint Chiefs of Staff, who will be arriving in Tel Aviv for his first