US, Israel to begin major air defense drill

Thursday, October 18, 2012
By Paul Martin

Against backdrop of tension with Iran, US forces begin to arrive in Israel ahead of largest joint military exercise yet; drill to cost over $37 million

Yoav Zitun

The US and Israel are embarking on the largest exercise in their long military relationship, against a backdrop of tension with Iran and sharp rhetoric in the American presidential election.

An air defense drill planned for late this month will involve more than 3,500 Americans and 1,000 Israelis, practicing their ability to work together against a range of threats facing the main US ally in the Mideast. Officials briefing reporters on Wednesday would not specify the exact date for security reasons.

The drill is to cost the US $30 million, while the IDF is shelling out NIS 30 million ($7.85 million) for the exercise.

American forces have started arriving in Israel and others will participate from positions around Europe and the Mediterranean in what the military is calling Austere Challenge 2012, US Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin said via telephone from Germany.

“It’s about teamwork,” Franklin said, noting the drill has been planned for more than two years. The exercise, he said, “is not related to national elections nor any perceived tensions in the Middle East.”

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