Israeli jets return from Cobra Warrior exercise in the UK

Drill marked first time that Israeli F-15 fighter jets flew in British airspace

Israeli jet touch down in the UK. (photo credit: RAF WADDINGTON)
Israeli jet touch down in the UK.
(photo credit: RAF WADDINGTON)
Israeli fighter jets have touched down at their home bases after taking part in a high-intensity tactical drill with aircraft from several other nations at Waddington Air Force Base in the UK.
Israeli jets joined 50 aircraft of various types from the British, German, Italian and American air forces for the 20-day Exercise Cobra Warrior.
The aircraft, deployed from Tel Nof to RAF Waddington, consisted of 3 F-15 “C” Baz and 4 F-15 “D” Baz fighters, as well as a KC-707 Re’em tanker and a C-130J Hercules, which was used for logistics.
It was the first time that Israeli fighter jets were deployed to the United Kingdom and the first exercise of the IAF and RAF of this magnitude.
Brig.-Gen. Amnon Ein-Dar, the Head of the Training and Doctrine Directorate in the Israeli Air Force, told The Jerusalem Post that the drill was important for Israel in order to strengthen diplomatic ties and increase tactical advantages with allied forces.
“It’s an important drill because we had a wonderful opportunity to take our teams and have them train in areas where they are not used to, something which is very important for war,” he said, adding that Israeli pilots “had the opportunity to learn from other air forces with a very high level of performance which gives us the opportunity to send our people to see their planning process and how they train and fight in the air in order to get the highest quality training.”
Formerly named Exercise CQWI (Combined Qualified Weapons Instructor), the annual Cobra Warrior exercise is the RAF’s largest collective training exercise.
The multinational exercise drilled and developed the tactical leadership skills of aircrew and supporting elements within a complex air environment. Personnel from all countries developed, planned and practiced tactics, techniques and procedures during various wartime scenarios.
IAF pilots practiced with the other air forces in air-to-air and ground-to-air combat scenarios, as well as several aerial refueling scenarios under fire.
“It was very special and important exercise for us – first of all in the historical dimension, the Israeli Air Force actually had its roots from the British Air Force, so there is a special opportunity to close the circle by flying in England 70 years later,” he said. “It was a beautiful historical moment.”
The drill, which is the culmination of the RAF’s advanced Qualified Weapons Instructor course, has seen the participation of several foreign air forces in the past, including Saudi Arabia in 2015, Germany in 2016 and Italy in 2018.
With growing military ties between the two countries, a group of Israeli combat pilots took part in a joint training seminar with RAF Typhoon pilots last year. In 2017, RAF Chief of Air Staff and former air chief marshal Sir Stephen Hillier met with IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin and visited several bases.
“The cooperation with England over the years, and especially this past year, have gotten warmer and stronger,” Ein-Dar said, adding that the two air forces have taken part in several joint drills, including in June when Israeli F-35i fighter jets from Israel, the US and UK conducted training flights over the Mediterranean Sea in the Israeli aircraft’s first-ever international exercise.
RAF pilots will take part in Israel’s largest international air exercise Blue Flag 2020 as observers for the first time.
Ein-Dar told the Post that flying in UK airspace also had a significant meaning.
“A lot of air force bases were first British bases [during the Mandate of Palestine], so it’s nice to fly in England 70 years later,” Ein-Dar said. “It was a beautiful, historical moment.”