IAF fighter jets during the Red Flag joint exercise at Nellis air force base in Nevada .
(photo credit: COURTESY IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)
Israel, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates began joint military exercises on Monday as part of the US Air Force’s elite Red Flag drill at Nellis Air Force Base in the Nevada desert.
Countries without diplomatic relations are rarely seen in joint military exercises, but few nations would be likely to allow such concerns cause them to miss an opportunity to work with the US Air Force.
The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit declined comment on participation by Pakistan or the UAE, but regarding Israeli involvement said, “The air force trains regularly in Israel and abroad in order to maintain operational readiness for different operational situations. The ‘Red Flag’ exercise is a unique and high quality exercise. When the air force was invited to participate, it responded by accepting.”
During the exercise, pilots are divided into teams engaged in simulated dog fights and other difficult missions. Israel is expected to face surface-to-air missile simulations of those it could face from Hezbollah and other adversaries.
Israeli and Pakistani air force pilots reportedly have already flown to the US in their own air forces’ F-16 fighter jets.
There is some expectation that the US might showcase its new F-35 fighter, dozens of which Israel has ordered to help secure air superiority for the future.
The Aviationist website reported sightings of Pakistani jets on their way to the exercise.
Plans to include Pakistan and the UAE were first announced by the US Air Force in 2015.
Reports of clandestine contacts between Israel, Pakistan and the UAE have surfaced in the past. It is widely assumed that some warming of ties has occurred out of public view, as Sunni Gulf countries networked with Israel about problems shared in common over Iran.
In November 2015 Israel opened a diplomatic mission in the UAE to confer with the International Renewable Energy Association.
Even as the UAE emphasized that the mission had no connection to the UAE government, the acceptance of diplomatic representatives signaled a thaw in relations.
The exercise is due to run through August 26 at Nellis Air Force base, one of the largest fighter bases in the world.
Nellis operates on the Nevada Test and Training Range, encompassing some 15,000 square miles of airspace and 4,700 square miles of restricted land.
From altitudes as low as 100 feet, at speeds up to twice that of sound, the base is home to advanced combat training, operational testing and tactic development.
Last year, Israel and Jordan participated in a similar joint exercise. Pakistan has also participated in the past, but until now, never at the same time as Israel.