On April 20th, Israeli and UAE fighter jets took part in a joint military exercise hosted by Greece.
This is not the first time that Israeli and Emirati pilots have flown together, they both participated in a similar Greek-led exercise in 2017 and an American drill in 2016.
Seven countries joined Greece in its Iniohos exercise this year: Cyprus, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, France, the United States, Spain and Canada. The exercise kicked off on Sunday and was scheduled to last through April 23rd.
According to the Israeli Air Force, the drill is meant to simulate a variety of scenarios, including air-to-air combat, strikes on land-based targets and evading attacks from surface-to-air missiles.
“This exercise is an important milestone in the strategic international cooperations between the Israeli Air Force and the different countries through strengthening shared interests,” the Israeli military said.
Dozens of planes from each country are participating in the exercise, which is being held largely along the Greek coast and over the Mediterranean.
In previous years, Israel has used aerial exercises in Greece as a way to practice against and learn about the Russian S-300 air defense system, which is also used by Iran and Syria.
“They’re doing something nice: [The Greeks are] involving their navy in the exercise so a lot of times on these ships there are different surface-to-air missiles and cannons that can fire at us. That’s what you’re dealing with,” said an Israeli officer, referred to as Lt. Yod.
According to the officer, the different countries participating in the exercise work together to complete different aspects of a shared mission, while a so-called “Red Team,” pretending to be an enemy military, tries to stop them.
“Before each sortie, you get mission orders that include all kinds of protocols, what you have to do. There will be 20 planes from different countries in different formations. So the French will be doing air-to-air combat missions, while the Spanish are looking for ships, while we are searching for and striking targets. That all needs to happen simultaneously because I can’t carry out a strike if there’s a ship [firing surface-to-air missiles at me] or there’s a plane threatening me,” said Yod.
Prior to the beginning of the military drills, on April 18th, Israel and Greece signed their biggest ever defense procurement deal.
According to Tel Aviv, would strengthen political and economic ties between the two countries, as their air forces launched a joint exercise.
The agreement includes a $1.65 billion contract for the establishment and operation of a training center for the Hellenic Air Force by Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems over 22 years, Israel’s Defense Ministry said.
The training center will be modeled on Israel’s flight academy and will be equipped with 10 M-346 training aircraft produced by Italy’s Leonardo, the Ministry said.
Elbit will supply kits to upgrade and operate Greece’s T-6 aircraft and also provide training, simulators and logistical support.
“I am certain that (this program) will upgrade the capabilities and strengthen the economies of Israel and Greece and thus the partnership between our two countries will deepen on the defense, economic and political levels,” said Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz.
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