The exercise lasted a week and included large-scale interceptions and flights of fighter planes from a number of squadrons from the Tel Nof base as well as CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters. The exercise was planned in advance, but this year was held in a more crowded and more violent air environment, against the background of the unprecedented incident in northern Syria earlier in the week during which a Russian plane was shot down by the Turkish army.
The senior officer said that a similar incident could not occur between Israel and Russia because online coordination between the two countries was agreed upon between Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot and his Russian counterpart at a meeting held in Moscow a few months ago.
"The Russians are here. They are a major player and can not be ignored," the officer said. "Our approach is 'live and let live'. Russia is not the enemy, on the contrary. Our aircraft try to avoid friction with the Russians and they are try to avoid friction with us. We do not get close to one another so as not to bring the pilots of both sides into a state of uncertainty."
According to the officer, no Russian plane will be shot down even if it is locked onto. "Our policy is not to attack, shoot at or down any Russian plane. We live next to each other and not on top of one another… You have to remember that in the Syrian chaos there is movement of a variety of aircraft, manned and unmanned, even some made in Iran and there is an understanding of when one can go in. Nevertheless, we do not tell anyone in advance of our movements."
The large-scale exercise was conducted in parallel with the routine operational activities of the Air Force. During the extensive exercise pilots simulated scenarios of aerial battles, as well as other scenarios dealing with threats from the ground, such as from advanced anti-aircraft batteries and missile launchers and Hezbollah rockets.
The exercise was divided into two: operations in virtual space at Air Force headquarters, and coping with war situations. "If you were sitting at the command center of the Kirya (IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv) you would be sure that a real war was being fought," explained a senior officer corps. "It gets us used to the real infrastructure, real intelligence, real targets, with other units outside the Air Force. We have set up an exercise that makes believe our enemy is in our territory and we practice fighting it. We erected missile batteries that 'shoot' at us, as well as enemy aircraft."