Israel, US to hold air drill simulating striking Iran nuclear program

The drill, one of the largest Israel Air Force drills in years, will include long-range flights such as those that Israeli pilots might need to make in order to reach Iran.

  A US Air Force B-1b heavy bomber was escorted by an IAF F-15 fighter jet above Israeli airspace on October 30, 2021 (photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
A US Air Force B-1b heavy bomber was escorted by an IAF F-15 fighter jet above Israeli airspace on October 30, 2021
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)

The Israel Air Force this week will hold one of its largest drills in years with the United States Air Force simulating offensive strikes against Iran’s nuclear program.

The drill will take place from Tuesday until Thursday over the Mediterranean Sea and Israel. It will include long-range flights such as those that Israeli pilots might need to make in order to reach the Islamic Republic.

The exercise will include refuelers as well as fighter jets from both forces.

Washington and Israel have signed an agreement that would see the US come to assist Israel with missile defense in times of war, and the two militaries have held numerous joint air defense exercises in recent years.

IAF, USAF hold joint F-35 drill in southern Israel (credit: IAF)IAF, USAF hold joint F-35 drill in southern Israel (credit: IAF)

Tensions between Israel and Iran remain high

Iran, which possesses over 1,000 short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, continues to smuggle weapons to countries and non-state actors such as Hezbollah, which is estimated to have an arsenal of some 50,000 missiles on Israel’s northern border.

With tensions high over Iran’s nuclear program and regional hostility, Israel and the Islamic Republic have been threatening each other with senior officers stating that their militaries are capable of striking the other.

Israel has significantly increased its readiness level and has taken steps throughout the past year to prepare a credible military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The NIS 58 billion defense budget set for the IDF in the coming year is expected to allow the Israeli military to focus on the threats posed by Iran across the region, with some NIS 3.5b. designated specifically for this.

The upcoming drill was discussed by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi during his visit to Washington last week. Kohavi, who returned to Israel a day earlier than planned following a deadly double bombing in Jerusalem, met with senior American officials including Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, and CENTCOM Commander Gen. Michael Kurilla.

In the last year, the IDF and CENTCOM forces have held several joint drills as well as operational missions.

Kurilla was in Israel a week prior to Kohavi’s visit and toured the northern border as well as the IAF’s fleet of F-35 Adir stealth fighter jets.

“We are operating together on all fronts to gather intelligence, neutralize threats, and prepare for various scenarios in either one or multiple arenas.”

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kohavi

“We are operating together on all fronts to gather intelligence, neutralize threats, and prepare for various scenarios in either one or multiple arenas,” Kohavi said during Kurilla’s visit, adding that the two countries were “developing joint military capabilities at an accelerated rate” against Iran and other threats in the Middle East.

Outgoing Defense Minister Benny Gantz told reporters at the beginning of the month that while Israel has the capabilities to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities, Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu must consider the issue “carefully” before giving the order.

“Israel has the ability to act in Iran. We have the readiness, development capabilities, and long-term plans we are managing. We need to prepare for this possibility, and we will also need to consider this issue very carefully before carrying it out,” he said.

“Israel has the ability to act in Iran. We have the readiness, development capabilities, and long-term plans we are managing. We need to prepare for this possibility, and we will also need to consider this issue very carefully before carrying it out.”

Defense Minister Benny Gantz

According to Gantz, the option to strike Iran “should be prepared and this issue should also be considered very carefully before implementation.”