Drones, F-35s feature in Israel’s largest military drill in years as Iran tensions rise

Thursday, June 20, 2019
By Paul Martin

20 Jun, 2019

Israel has held its largest military drill in years, simulating war with an unnamed “challenging and responsive” enemy amid heightened tensions between the US and Iran, a conflict it has long cheered from the sidelines.

The massive four-day drill included thousands of army, navy, and air force troops, a large drone contingent and a missile defense system designed with the “Iranian threat” in mind. Israel’s F-35A stealth fighter also made its debut, adding “lethality and multi-role capabilities” the exercises previously lacked, an Israeli Air Force official told reporters. Its 14-strong fleet of F-35s features outer wings designed to minimize their radar profiles.

The adversary was not named, though an Israeli Defense Force report described it as “a thinking, challenging and responsive enemy with technologies and capabilities beyond today’s arena.” The IDF denied the drill had anything to do with current tensions between its US allies and Iran, insisting the exercises had been planned long in advance and focused on threats coming from the north – i.e. Hezbollah.

The IDF ran through offensive and defensive exercises simulating conflict with Hezbollah and fighting in Gaza and Syria, both of which have been frequent bombing targets in recent months. They also ran simulations of heavy missile and rocket bombardment of Israel, as well as scenarios in which the enemy was equipped with Russian-built S-300 and S-400 missile defense systems. The drills, which “involved full cooperation between the air force and the ground forces,” were called “unique” in an IDF report, which boasted the military had “reached the highest level of cooperation in the last decade.”

“We are not happy to go to war,” President Reuven Rivlin said on Tuesday, “but the military is fully prepared to respond to any threat and any scenario.” He specifically called out Hezbollah, warning the group “not to subordinate Lebanon to Iran’s agenda” or use Lebanon “as a launching pad for attacks against Israel.”

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