juniper cobra 248.88.
(photo credit: Yaakov Lappin)
A major US-Israeli missile-defense exercise begun this week was planned several months ago and bears no relations to current events, US and Israeli military officials said during a press conference in Tel Aviv on Thursday.
Military representatives from both countries sought to downplay any tensions that might be fueled by the drill, pointing out that the Juniper Cobra Air Defense Exercise is held every two years, and is designed to test the active missile-defense capabilities of both armed forces.
But in the shadow of increased regional tensions sparked by Iran's nuclear program, the presence of the US Navy ships in Israeli territorial water and 1,000 US European Command soldiers in Israel, together with a number of advanced American missile defense systems, will be seen by many as a sign of US readiness to assist Israel in defending its skies in the event of an Iranian attack.
The American Navy will activate its AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense System and Patriot advanced capability missiles during the drill. Israel's Arrow 2 Theater Ballistic Missile Defense System will also be tested.
Brig.-Gen. Doron Gavish, who commands the IAF's Air Defense Corps, and R.-Adm. John M. Richardson, director of US Naval Forces Europe and US Naval Forces Africa, praised each other's professional abilities and said they looked forward to a fruitful exercise over the coming three weeks.
The officials said the drill, the largest of its kind, is divided into three stages. In the first phase, American missile ships, radar stations, planes and missile-defense systems will take their positions. In the second, a computer simulation will test responders with scenarios of missile attacks. In third phase, dummy missiles will be fired from US Navy ships and intercepted in live fire exercises.
"The crews will be jointly made up of Americans and Israelis, and the commands will work should to shoulder with one another," Gavish said.
"Our level of cooperation and consistency is very deep," Richardson said. "Our picture of the scenario is very common."
Radar stations have been set up around the country, and Israel's Green Pine and Super Green Pine missile detection systems will be activated.
The US-made Forward Based X-band Tactical radar, situated in the Negev, which has long-range missile detection system, will also come into play.
The X-band radar works in conjunction with the Arrow missile defense, while also transmitting data to a US joint tactical ground station.