The Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) international Blue Flag training exercise took off in southern Israel on Sunday with air forces of seven other nations taking part in the wargame, the largest and most advanced aerial exercise ever held in Israel.
The exercise, taking place in the Negev Desert, is set to last for two weeks and end on October 28.
Launched in 2013, the Blue Flag is held every two years to strengthen cooperation between the participant countries.
The air forces of Germany, Italy, Britain, France, India, Greece and the U.S. sent teams to take part in the drill.
The IAF’s Sufa F-16I squadrons, led by the 115th “Flying Dragon” aggressor squadron will play the role of the “red” enemy force. A Yahalom Patriot battery will also join the enemy simulation force.
This years’ drills will focus on the integration of fourth and fifth-generation aircraft, including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, in complex operational scenarios.
For the first time, the international teams will conduct a joint honorary flyover through Israel’s skies.
Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, commander of the IAF, will lead the flyover in a Baz F-15 alongside an Israeli “Adir” F-35I.
“We are living in a very complicated region, and the threats to the State of Israel from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran are only increasing," said Norkin.
"Holding an international exercise in this current reality, while continuing our public and covert operational activities on all fronts, is of utmost strategic importance and has an extensive impact over the Israeli Air Force, the IDF, and the State of Israel."
Lt.-Gen. Ingo Gerhartz, Commander of the German Air Force, will fly alongside them in the “Eagle Star” Eurofighter, which has been specially painted with the Israeli and German flags.