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Israel Hosts Its Largest-Ever Multinational Air Exercise, with U.S., European Nations, India

Israel’s largest-ever biennnial aerial exercise, including the air forces of nine countries, is underway, The Times of Israel reported Sunday.

Teams from the United States, Greece, Poland, France, Italy and Germany will be participating in Blue Flag 2017. For the first time a team from India will participate. An eighth country, not identified by Israel, is also participating.

The participation of India in the exercise was described by the Times as “a sign of the improving military ties between Jerusalem and New Delhi.”

There will be over 1,000 pilots, technicians and other support personnel participating in Blue Flag 2017. Previously, Israel hosted the Blue Flag exercises in 2013, and 2015, with each successive exercise getting larger. The training is being held at the Ovda air force base, north of Eilat in southern Israel.

“The participating nations arrived in Israel in their own aircraft and will practice different situations and scenarios,” an IDF statement said. The multinational forces will be challenged by the IAF’s Red Squadron, which acts as the enemy in aerial combat exercises.

The hope of the exercise, according to the Israeli army, is to sharpen technical skills and improve “diplomatic cooperation between the countries.”

“Exercise Blue Flag gives opportunity to the IAF to share and learn best practices with some of the best professionals from other Air Forces,” the Indian Air Force said on Facebook, observing that this would be the first time it would be “operating with Israeli Air Force in a multilateral exercise setting.”

In the U.S.-hosted Red Flag exercises last year, the IAF flew along with the United Arab Emirates and Pakistani air forces, even though those two countries do not have diplomatic relations with Israel. A year earlier the IAF participated in the Red Flag exercises alongside Jordan’s air force.

[Photo: Israeli Air Force / Facebook]