A launch in a US missile defense drill 311.
(photo credit: US Navy)
Israel and the United States will hold the postponed Austere Challenge
missile-defense exercise before the end of the year, likely in October or
Senior American military officers from the European Command are
scheduled to arrive in Israel later this month to finalize plans to hold the
exercise, which has been billed as the largest joint missile-defense exercise in
the countries’ history.
The drill was initially scheduled for April and
was supposed to see the deployment of thousands of US troops and various
sophisticated American military equipment in Israel.
however, Defense Minister Ehud Barak asked the Pentagon to consider the
possibility of postponing the drill until later this year. Talks about
postponing the drill took the Americans as well as the Israel Air Force’s Air
Defense division, which is responsible for missile defense in the IDF, by
The Defense Ministry never gave an official explanation for its
decision to postpone the maneuvers, citing instead vague reasons ranging from
budget to logistical problems. It is considered more likely, however, that
Israel asked to postpone the drill due to the possibility it might decide to
attack Iran sometime in the near future.
It is possible that Israel did
not want American troops in the country at a time when it might be preparing
such a strike and also did not want to be accused of implicating the US in
helping Israel prepare for the strike by the mere fact that its soldiers were in
the country prior to an attack.
Israel and the US will use the drill 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.
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This year’s drill is
expected to be unique in its size and scope, and will also mark the first time
that commander of the US European Command Adm.
James Stavridis will
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
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
The IAF is also planning to hold a massive international drill in
Israel in 2013 and is inviting air forces from around the world to participate.
The United States is expected to send at least one fighter squadron to the
drill, in addition to several European countries.
significantly increased the frequency of its joint maneuvers with foreign air
forces in recent years as part of the IAF’s desire to learn from its
counterparts overseas and to train with other aircraft that it does not
encounter regularly, such as the Typhoon and the Eurofighter, planes that are in
the hands of some Arab nations in the Middle East.
IAF sources said that
the international drill was still in the planning stages, but that it would
hopefully attract a large number of participants. Over the past year, the IAF
has held joint aerial maneuvers with Romania, Italy and Greece.
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