Israel will not participate in any Red Flag exercises this year

The Red Flag exercises take place several times a year bringing together American and international forces for drills.

Red Flag drill hosted by the US Air Force held at Nellis Air Base, Nevada (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
Red Flag drill hosted by the US Air Force held at Nellis Air Base, Nevada
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The Israel Air Force will not participate in the US-led international Red Flag aerial drills this year, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

According to a statement provided by the IDF, the IAF decided not to participate in the drill “in light of its set annual training program and in addition to the fact that the Air Force hosted the Blue Flag drill, the largest international exercise and as part of it carried out joint drills with a wide range of countries.”

The Red Flag exercises take place several times a year. They bring together US and international forces for drills on realistic simulated combat situations and simulating modern threats that participants could face.

The first Red Flag of the year took place January 24 to February 11 and had nearly 100 aircraft and 3,000 personnel from the US Air Force, Navy, Marines, Space Force, Air National Guard, US Air Force Reserves, the United Kingdom (Royal Air Force) and Australia (Royal Australian Air Force).

“Red Flag 22-1 is a unique exercise because it demonstrates the most cutting-edge tactical integration of airpower from the US and her primary allies, the UK and Australia,” Col. Jared Hutchinson, 414th Combat Training Squadron commander, said in a press release by Nellis AFB. “Each flag pushes the state of the art to a new level by building on the efforts of previous Red Flags. There are many new and emerging real-world tactical problems that will be presented for the first time to the allied force.”

IAF fighter jets during the Red Flag joint exercise at Nellis air force base in Nevada  (credit: COURTESY IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)IAF fighter jets during the Red Flag joint exercise at Nellis air force base in Nevada (credit: COURTESY IDF SPOKESMAN'S OFFICE)

Other international forces will participate in the following Red Flag exercises expected to take place this March and July.

Israel won’t be taking part this year, but the IAF regularly participates in the US Air Force’s main Red Flag exercises at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

In 2018, the IAF scaled back its participation in Red Flag in Alaska amid increasing tensions on the northern border. The drill in Alaska offered pilots the opportunity to fly in combat scenarios that involve winter conditions, such as snow and ice, which Israeli pilots rarely get to drill on in the Middle East.

Israel’s Blue Flag, which took place in October, had some 40 aircraft from Germany (six Eurofighters), Italy (5 F-35 jets and 5 G550 planes), Britain (six Eurofighters), France (four Raphael jets), India (five Mirage jets), Greece (four F-16 jets) and the US (six F-16 CJ jets) taking part alongside dozens of Israeli jets.

The two-week drill in the Negev Desert, out of Uvda Air Force Base, marked the first time that a British fighter squadron has been deployed to Israel since the establishment of the state, as well as the first time that India sent a Mirage fighter squadron and the first time that France deployed a Rafael squadron to Israel.

In addition, personnel from South Korea, Finland, Romania, Netherlands, Japan, Australia, Croatia and elsewhere were at Uvda to observe the exercise without any active participation.

During the drill, forces practiced dog fights, as well as surface-to-air battle scenarios, advanced surface-to-air missile combat outlines in enemy territory and more.

The exercise focused on “broadening and enhancing the operational capabilities of the participating forces,” with a focus on air-to-air and air-to-ground attacks, as well as evading ground-based air-defense systems “and various operational scenarios in enemy territory,” the IDF said at the time.