Israeli, US soldiers near Patriot missiles 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Havakuk Levison)
US military forces have begun arriving in Israel to take part in the largest
joint missile defense exercise of its kind, which will begin next
One thousand American soldiers will arrive on Israeli territory and
a further 2,000 US troops in Europe and the United States will take part via
remote defense computing systems.
An equal number of Israeli soldiers
will be involved.
During the drill, named Austere Challenge 12, Israeli
air defense systems, such as the Iron Dome anti-rocket shield and Arrow 2
anti-ballistic missile batteries, will be deployed, as well as US and Israeli
Patriot batteries. American naval ships carrying the Aegis combat system, which
can intercept missiles, will take part, and at least one US Navy ship will dock
The IDF and the US military’s European Command will set up
missile defense batteries across Israel. Most of the drill will involve computer
simulations of incoming rockets, though in the last stage, a Patriot will be
fired at a mock enemy projectile.
“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.”
Nuriel defined a successful program as “the
interception of all incoming missiles to reduce damage to Israeli
US Air Force Lt.-Gen. Craig Franklin – the senior
American officer in Israel for the exercise – said Washington will be spending
$30 million on the drill. Nuriel said Israel would be spending the same
“This is a defensive exercise for missile-defense capabilities in
Israel,” Franklin said. He stressed that the drill had no relation to any real
world events. “It’s not there to send a message, but to prove a defensive
missile capability for Israel,” Franklin said.
All threats to the Israeli
home front would be included in scenarios, from long and short-range ballistic
missiles to rockets and mortars, he added.
“It’s to prove defense
interoperability between our two nations.”
Nuriel said scenarios would
include missile attacks from multiple fronts involving more than one salvo per
“We need [the soldiers] to work at a high tempo, to prepare them for
real scenarios if they are coming,” he said.
Nuriel confirmed that the
air defense forces would also practice dealing with the threat of a hostile
drone, such as the one sent by Hezbollah into Israeli airspace earlier this
A senior Israeli defense source added that the scenarios took
“near and far threats” into consideration.
“When we look at the
cooperation among our enemies, we understand that our national home front has
turned into a target. A joint drill significantly strengthens our operational
capabilities,” the source said.
“We welcome our American partners to
Israel,” he added.
Throughout the exercise, military traffic on the
country’s roads will be greater than usual, and some disruptions could occur to
civilian traffic due to army convoys.
Earlier this week, Air Force chief
Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel appointed a new head to the Air Defense Command this
Brig.-Gen. Shahar Shohat replaced Brig.-Gen. Doron Gavish after the
latter completed his term as head of the force.
“The combination of new
regimes and terror organizations armed with advanced weaponry, which were once
reserved for militaries alone, creates a threat to the heart of our state and
way of life,” Eshel warned during the ceremony.
“The Air Defense Command
has a vital role in all of the components that make up [our] security concept –
defense capabilities together with attack components enable victory,” he
Gavish noted that Israeli air defenses intercepted 109 enemy
rockets fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip in recent
“This is a first-time operational achievement on a global scale,”