Blue Flag 2017 Dissimilar Air Combat Over The Negev
The Israeli air force international training program has become in the last years to be fully and reach in deployments and collaborations that took the force to all kind of new lands on the globe and welcome new guests into the small country of Israel.
The Blue flag exercise was born when the IAF recognized the need to host and train with several countries simultaneously on its own field, and in order to strengthen the ability for international cooperation with is closest allies when it will become necessary and required.
The first Blue Flag has taken place on 2013 when forces from the United States, Italy, and Greece have participated, those three are considered as strong allies of Israel and the IAF, and the cooperation between them in happening for a long time now. The exercise was held in Ovda Air Base in the Southern Israel, which is the main deployments base in Israel and he is the home base of 115 Squadron “The Red Dragon’s“- The aggressor squadron of the IAF.
The base hosts squadrons training in the Negev Desert. It also holds the advanced training center, which trains aircrews in varied exercises, teaches them the IAF’s combat doctrine and how to build operational orders. Two years later, In 2015, the exercise also took place in the same format, and the Polish Air Force also participated.
The exercise this year is the third exercise and he is large than ever, when the IAF hosting over 1,200 aircrew members, maintenance, administration and support personnel and almost 80 fighter jets that come from a 7 different countries. This is the biggest international exercise that Israel ever host, and one of the biggest in the world for this.
Three countries from the seven arrived in Israel for the first time, Germany, India, And France, this is a huge jump forward in the international arena for Israel.
“The regional situation is very unstable and there is a significant statement that seven countries are coming here that say they believe in the State of Israel, the IDF, and the IAF,” said General Amnon Ein-Dar, the head of the Air Operations department.
The Full list of the Forces:
Squadron Force Type Num of planes
107 squadron “The Knights of the Orange Tail” ISRAEL AIR FORCE F16I 6
101 Squadron “The First Fighter Squadron” ISRAEL AIR FORCE F16 C Block 40 6
“the Red Dragon’s“ ISRAEL AIR FORCE F16 C Block 30 All the Squadron have been participate.
“The Knights of the Twin Tail”
ISRAEL AIR FORCE F15 A\B\C\D 14 Aircrafts total , some of them are 106 squadron planes that participate as 133.
Escadron de chasse 1/3 Navarre Armée de l’air MIRAGE 2000D 5
510th FS USAFE F16 C Block 30 8
TaktLwG 73 “Steinhoff“ Luftwaffe Eurofighter Typhoon 6
77 Squadron “Veiled Vipers“ Indian Air Force C130J 1
335 squadron “AEGEAN TIGERS” Hellenic Air Force F-16C/D Block 52+ adv 4
154 And 155
Squadrons Aeronautica Militare Tornados IDS\MLU\ECR 5
31 – Tigers
32 – Dragons squadrons Polish Air Force F16 C\D Block 52 6
Alongside the fighter squadrons from Israel, several Israeli Squadrons have been given full support to all the participates, A G550 AEWC “Nahshon” from 122 Squadron, that build an aerial picture and give Air supremacy. A Boeing 707 Tanker “Re’em” from 120 “Desert Giants Squadron” that trained and refuel the squadrons during combat scenarios.
And a C-130J Super Hercules “Shimshon” from 103 “Elephants Squadron”, the Elephants Sqr have Been Train together With The Indian C130J from 77 Squadron “Veiled Vipers”, the Indians deploy with the “Garud” Commando Force that is the main Special Forces unit in the Indian Air Force and they responsible for close support, combat search & rescue, they all train alongside the IDF heliborne Combat Search & Rescue (CSAR) extraction unit – 669.
“This is the first time for us here in Israel, there is a big importance to the ability to work and train together and share problems and solutions, There is an understanding of the common challenges, and a lot of combat experience that we can learn from. And also learn to work together. Techniques and capabilities.“ says K. Bharat, Squadron Leader from the Indian Air Force. Capt. Itamar from 103 squadron says “The aircrews will take part in the exercise’s aerial combat scenarios, Flying in the ‘Blue-Flag’ isn’t like a regular training flight. The rules of the game change in an exercise as large as this one, and the aerial playground is designed so that the scenarios are as effective for the participants as possible.“
A landing of a German fighter jet in the Israeli land is a Proof of prosperity and success in the relations between the nations in the military and in the political arena, the Luftwaffe has been deployed to Ovda with 6 Eurofighter Typhoons aircrafts from the TaktLwG 73 “Steinhoff”.
LT.Col. Gero von Fritschen, commander, and the leader of the German delegation says “its a very special moment for us, we are honored to be here, the most challenging part for us was to find a common base of understanding, this exercise is focused on the flying part itself, less on the planning, more on the execution”.
in addition to Germany, this is the first year that the Armee de l’air is deploying to Israel, also, a first landing in the last decades for a Dassault fighter jet in the Israeli ground. the French Squadron – Escadron de chasse 1/3 Navarre, was equipped with 5 MIRAGE’s 2000D.
In previous exercises, the US Air Force sent an F15s that came from 492nd Fighter Squadron, that based at the fighter wing in RAF Lakenheath, this year, the US have been deployed from Aviano Air Base in Italy, with F16’s from 510th FS.
LT.Col. Benjamin “Skynyrd” Freeborn, the commander of the 510th FS says:
“There is no such thing as working alone, Today we work in coalitions, Against ISIS or anyone else. So it is important to practice together and to practice common abilities and language so that we know how to act together if we need to, air diplomacy as a bridge to regional stability“.
“The Red Dragon’s“ Squadron – the aggressors for this exercise that flew with block 40 F16’s as the red side, this year its been decided to also use the MIM-104 (‘Patriot’) surface to air missiles, for challenging the forces during the exercise and supply more threats. The exercise area of flying, was the Negev desert, although its small, he his very good for mission planners and he provides a very good training ground with shooting ranges and low flying areas that includes mountains and valleys.
The exercise, is designed to simulate fighting in a coalition with various air forces, that means a lot to Israel, especially these days, that fighting terrorism is a national interest, and many resources must be mobilized in order to stop it, we can watch the situations just around the corner, within Israel’s borders in Syria, Lebanon and the everyday fighting in the ISIS.
Eyes to the future :
Look like the next blue flag will take place in the end of 2019, the IAF is entering those days into the fifth generation era and the IAF’s F35 squadron will become operational in this December, there is no doubt that the use in the F35 will strengthen the IAF.
The State of Israel is a central component of the Middle East arena. There is a great effort to prevent unnecessary incidents in the neighboring countries, at the same time, maintaining air superiority in the region and keep the borders clear.
Story and Photos by Amit Agronov