Blue Flag 2017, the largest international aerial training exercise in Israel’s history, began today upon the arrival of aircraft from seven different air forces to Ouvda AFB. Throughout the combined training exercise, held this year for the third time, the visiting squadrons will fly alongside Israeli squadrons.
The goal of the Blue Flag training exercise is to simulate extreme combat scenarios and coalition flights as realistically as possible. The exercise will host air forces from the United States of America, Poland, Italy and Greece – and for the first time India, France and Germany will participate as well.
Throughout the first week of the two-week-long exercise, the international aircrews will acclimate themselves to the base and get to know each other. Throughout the second week, the participants will rehearse complex scenarios and coalition flights. During some of the sorties, the participants will fly against the "Flying Dragon" Squadron, the IAF’s aggressor squadron, which will simulate enemy forces via "enemy" aircraft, SAM (Surface-to-air missile) batteries and MANPADS (Man-portable air-defense systems).
"The Blue Flag exercise is a significant quantum leap in our ability to hold an exercise and provide our multi-national participants with a quality training experience as performed in Israel," shared Lt. Col. Nadav, Commander of the 133rd Squadron ("Knights of the Twin Tail"), which operates "Baz" (F-15) fighter jets and is leading the exercise. "This is a significant milestone in our relationship with the international air forces, some of which are arriving in Israel to train for the first time. This exercise will allow us to continue cooperating with these forces in the future as well."
Participating on behalf of Israel are a "Baz" (F-15) squadron, a "Sufa" (F-16I) squadron and two "Barak" (F-16C/D) squadrons, alongside tactical transport aircraft, helicopters, UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and EL (Electronic Warfare). The US, Hellenic, and Polish air forces arrived with F-16 fighters; the French with "Mirage" 2000D fighters; the Germans with "Eurofighter Typhoon" jets; the Italians with variants of the "Panavia Tornado" multirole fighter and the Indians with a C-130J "Super Hercules."
Besides the tactical advantage gained by training with hundreds of international aircrew members, aircraft and weapon systems, the IAF will also gain a strategic advantage. "The IAF has two main goals in the exercise: the first is to improve the operational readiness of all air forces involved via a quality mutual training experience while creating a fertile ground for mutual learning. The second is to show the world that the IAF is an advanced, strong and leading force and improve Israel's international status as a result. We see each participant as an ambassador," elaborated Lt. Col. Guy, Head of the Training Branch in the IAF Air Division.
According to Maj. (res.) Tal, Head of the Blue Flag Management Team: "One of the more significant ways to improve international relationships and connect countries is to create military cooperation. The IAF is Israel's 'display window,' and the direct encounter between the air forces is an inseparable part of forming strong, continuous relationships with other countries, near or far."
The article was originally published on the IAF website by Eitam Almadon & Illy Pe’ery