General Dempsey arrives in Israel, meets Barak

US Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff set to oversee the largest air defense drill of its kind, which is currently underway.

October 28, 2012 22:50
1 minute read.
Ehud Barak and Martin Dempsey

Ehud Barak and Martin Dempsey 370. (photo credit: Ariel Harmoni / GPO)

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 interception.

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 conflict.

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.”

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