The latest batch of graduating IAF pilots, December 26, 2015..
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
The Greek Air Force base was split between three squadrons: on the right stood a Greek squadron; on the left a typically impressive delegation from the US Air Force - tens of jets and hundreds of ground and air crew with the latest equipment.
Lastly, parked in a field to the side were the Israeli Air Force's 12 F-16 jets taking part in the exercise, along with a small number of technicians working quietly and thoroughly on the aircraft.
The international exercise between the three air forces, taking place over two weeks in April, also included participation from Israeli transport and refueling planes, as well as an intelligence gathering aircraft.
Its goal was both simple and complex: to transform the performance of the IAF pilots, and to prepare them, as best as possible, for the unknown and ever-changing realities in the region.
"Air power needs to be adaptable, and needs to be suited for new threats," said IAF Brig.-Gen. Nir Barkan. "For example, on our home front we have threats - Hezbollah and Gaza - but go back a decade and you will see that this has changed a great deal."
"This is an unstable region, and we need to prepare for every possible threat and situation. The exercises are not necessarily training for scenarios we expect to face. Rather, my ability to train these pilots to cope with the unexpected is a huge asset."
Describing the advantage of training in a foreign country, Barkan said "You take a young pilot, who knows the skies above Israel like the palm of his hand, and you bring him to a place where he doesn't know the terrain, and doesn't know what challenges to expect within a matter of minutes of being in the air. He's dealing with threats that he has never experienced before."