The IAF Air Defense Division and the United States European Command (USEUCOM) held a joint exercise on February 7-14. As part of Juniper Falcon 2019 – the largest directorate exercise performed by the IDF in cooperation with the US Military – the two militaries drilled the arrival of US Forces to take part in missile defense.
The exercise is a significant landmark in the two militaries’ cooperation and emphasizes the deep strategic partnership between Israel and the United States, according to the IAF website. “The Juniper Falcon exercise is one of many mutual exercises performed by the two countries,” said Brig. Gen. Ran Kochav, Commander of the Air Defense Division. “This time, we put an emphasis on training our directorates. We are examining the way the forces go from routine operation to a state of emergency – from the moment the decision is made by the countries’ governments and to the moment when the forces are deployed in Israel.”
“We simulated the first days of the US Forces’ deployment, drilling the ways we would integrate and transport the forces,” elaborated Lt. Col. Tal Kaduri, Head of the Air Defense Division's Cooperation Department. “The integration stage is complex and so it is necessary that we include it in our exercises.”
The exercise included the participation of 300 US troops and 400 IDF troops from the Air Defense Division, the Operations Directorate, the Navy, logistical units and medical forces, among others. The forces drilled the integration of heavy American aircraft and the operation of mutual teleprocessing instruments.
American weapon systems were not deployed and the forces did not use live fire during the exercise. “In order for the US Forces to be able to assist in missile defense, the missile batteries need to be brought to the deployment sites. If the process doesn’t work out properly because of problems at the airfield or an attack on the convoy, the equipment and forces will be unable to perform their mission,” explained Lt. Col. Kaduri. “In addition, we simulated the decision-making process without the use of live-fire weapon systems. Acting as if they were in the field, we examined the operation and reached conclusions together regarding the batteries’ location.”
There are also American crews deployed in Israel throughout the year regardless of exercises. They train alongside Israeli crews both inside and outside of Israel so that they are prepared for when they are called to assist in missile defense. “The exercise helps us familiarize ourselves with the operational orders. In the past, we would encounter an operational order once every two years, but now it’s gone down to once a year. We work alongside our US partners and drill the scenario in real-time,” said Lt. Col. (res.) Erez Elimelech, the head of the exercise’s directorate.
Among the units assisting the US Forces in their deployment is the IAF Megiddo Unit. “The exercise allows us to drill the entire preparation process as thoroughly as possible, from coordination, through escorting the forces and to helping them deploy in the field,” emphasized Brig. Gen. (res.) Pini Yungman, the unit's commander. Lt. Col. Kaduri added: “We weren't alone. The crews at Hatzor AFB – where the exercise was held – were connected to operation in the field and provided help whenever it was required.”
The IAF utilizes a wide range of air defense systems. This begs the question: why does the force require the US Forces’ assistance? "We understand that the enemy has more missiles, and want to have several modes of defense. A backup force is appropriate in a situation of this sort,” said Lt. Col. Kaduri.
The importance of US Forces being deployed in Israel is both tactical and strategic. “US Forces in Israel may deter the enemy from operation,” elaborated Brig. Gen. Kochav. As the two forces continue to work together, interpersonal relationships begin to form. “It’s clear to everyone involved that the Americans are our best friends and that our values are similar. Personal relationships are an integral part of mission performance.”
“We have strong cooperation that dates back many years,” concluded Capt. A.J. Jaime, a US Air Force Logistics Readiness Officer. “It’s a partnership that we want to foster. It’s always beneficial to have allies, especially in a world as conflicted as ours. We’re happy to be here in Israel.”
First published by Noa Rokni on the IAF website