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IDF, US forces train on missile defense amid Iranian ballistic threats

Israeli and American forces join up in a biannual military exercise known as 'Juniper Cobra,' held at Hatzor Air Base in Israel, on Thursday, March 8, 2018
IDF Spokeperson's Unit
The core of the exercise is rooted in computer war games, which simulates multiple attack scenarios on Israel

In a hostile region, with Iran consolidating its presence in Syria and Hamas and Islamic Jihad stockpiling weapons in Gaza, Israel is under constant threat. To combat these forces, Israel is looking towards the skies to protect itself.

Enter Juniper Cobra. Every two years, the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and the United States Military hold a joint exercise to test their combat readiness. And this year, that exercise might be more relevant than ever.

The focus is on missile defense, emphasizing coordination of different defense systems to deal with extreme scenarios, in the process, simulating thousands of missile threats. Some 2500 American soldiers will participate in this year's drill.

"It is the most important exercise for US European Command this year,” Lt. Gen. Richard M. Clark, the Commander of the Third U.S. Air Force, told reporters Thursday. “It is the biggest that US European Command will execute this year."

There are a number of Israeli defense systems taking part – all developed with US funds and help – including the latest improved versions of Iron Dome which deal with short range rockets and mortars – often fired from Gaza; Arrow 2 and 3 which handle long range ballistic missiles, say from Iran; and David's Sling  – participating for the first time – which deals with mid range missiles, fired from Syria or Lebanon for example.

But the core of the exercise is rooted in computer war games, which simulate attacks on Israel by multiple state and non-state actors, including rockets and missiles fired from different regions.

"We will practice all the directions,” Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, Chief of Israeli Air Defense Command, referring to  “South, North, East, all of them together. And it will be a very complex scenario that emphasizes the changes in the last 2 years." Israeli officials have in recent weeks and months raised their concerns over Iranian missile bases in Syria and Lebanon.

US forces began to arrive by sea and air in late February. Forces continue to trickle in, with the USS Iwo Jima arriving Tuesday and the USS Mount Whitney arriving Thursday. Some of the troops will stay in Israel for more than 4 weeks. The simulations also include use of the American THAAD and Aegis systems which are not stationed in Israel.

While some American soldiers might have become accustomed to making the trip to Israel for the exercises, there is hope and belief among Israeli commanders that they will also make the journey in an actual conflict scenario.

"I'm sure, once the orders come, we will find the US troops here, on the ground, to be part of our deployment and team to defend the State of Israel,” Brig. Gen. Zvika Haimovich, Chief of Israeli Air Defense Command, said.

In a real life situation, Lt. Gen. Clark, stationed at United States Europe Command, says he could be on the ground in Israel within a day, with most forces arriving within 72 hours. "For over the last 18 months we've been preparing ourselves for this exercise, we've been training, we've been preparing,” he said. “We've been thinking about how we could better our ability to assist in the defense of Israel."

This kind of effort would indeed be largely defensive in nature. But whether the US would also cooperate with offensive operations by Israel in the region, is a different question.`

Comments

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Trip. station thaad systems in Israel. aegis too. remove the ones in Europe until the deadbeat leeches start fulfilling NATO requirements

trip = Trump

They are there as human shields, wearing American flags on their sleeves. And getting drawn into a new Middle East conflict OF ISRAEL's CHOOSING. Again. This isn't about "security" .... except in the sense of "securing" Israel as the dominant force and hegemon in the region (and not merely because it is the only country in the region with nuclear weaponry), one that bullies its neighbors endlessly and mercilessly. How many times has Israel attacked Syria and Lebanon in the past few years? (This is reminiscent of Moshe Dayan's "provocation-and-revenge" tactics just prior to the 1967 war.) It's not beyond the realm of possibility that Netanyahu, with mounting domestic pressures and facing criminal investigations, pulls some kind of provocative stunt to get a shooting war going. Coincidentally (ahem!) at the same time that U.S. troops are there engaged in war games being described as "massive" and "large-scale." Right off the Lebanese and Syrian borders. Hold onto your shorts, kiddies. You are being used.

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