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March 23, 2017 1:06 pm

Israel Air Force to Host 7 Nations in Largest-Ever ‘Battle Lab’

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An IAF fighter jet. Photo: Yissachar Ruas/ Tazpit News Agency. – The Israel Air Force (IAF) this fall will host combat pilots and support crews from seven countries — including the US, Greece, Poland, France, Germany, India and Italy — for the largest and most complex air exercise in the Jewish state’s history.

The rehearsal, dubbed “Blue Flag,” includes two weeks of intensive combat exercises with around 100 fighter pilots and other aircraft participating in the drills. The two-week combat program aims to improve the participants’ “planning, targeting and coordinated command and control” abilities in high-threat theaters.

The involvement of France, Germany, India and Italy in this year’s drill is the biggest change to the Blue Flag program since its inception in 2013. Since 2015, the exercise has included Israel, the US, Greece and Poland.

In addition to the four new nations joining this year’s exercise, officers and attachés from 40 other nations are expected to attend in an observational capacity.

Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, the IAF’s chief of international affairs, said “Everybody wants to engage and cooperate with the IAF. It’s a privilege…People are seeing there’s a lot to learn from Israel. In our tiny airspace and in the environment around us, things are so intense. The Russians are here.…Many of the world’s air forces are passing through here on their way to operations in Syria and elsewhere in the region. We provide a sort of battle lab in which forces can hone a spectrum of skills needed to combat growing threats.”

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