Exercise Blue Flag 2017 was the largest international aerial training exercise in Israel’s history – and the biggest event of its kind in the region to date. It began on November 2 and continued during the following two weeks at Ovda Air Base in southern Israel, some 37 miles (60km) north of the city of Eilat.
This was the third iteration of the exercise and involved over a thousand aircrews and ground personnel and in excess of 100 aircraft from France, Germany, Greece, India, Israel, Italy, Poland and the United States. For the German Luftwaffe pilots and ground crews this was the first time they had ever made a formal visit to Israel.
Participating on behalf of Israel were an F-15 Baz squadron, an F-16I Sufa squadron and two F-16C/D Barak squadrons, alongside tactical transport aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and electronic warfare assets. The Hellenic, Polish and US air forces all arrived with F-16 fighters (C, CJ, and D models), while the French brought Mirage 2000D fighters and the Germans Eurofighter EF2000s. The Italian contingent consisted of Tornado ECRs for the suppression of enemy air defences (SEAD) role. The Indian Air Force brought an C-130J airlifter and special forces.
Throughout the first week of the exercise, the international aircrews acclimatised themselves to the base and got to know each other through various social events. In the second week, the participants rehearsed complex scenarios and flew co-ordinated missions. During some of the sorties, the participants flew against the ‘Red Dragon’ Squadron, the Israeli Air Force’s aggressor unit, which simulated enemy aircraft and tactics. Other threats were provided by Patriot surface-to-air missile batteries and man-portable air defence systems. Noam Menashe
A full report on Blue Flag 2017 will appear in the forthcoming January issue of AFM.