Today (Thursday) marks the beginning of the biennial "Juniper Cobra" 2018 training exercise, as part of which US Forces arrive at Israel for three weeks of training. The purpose of the exercise is to drill cooperation between the US missile defense forces and the IAF's Aerial Defense Division. The exercise will simulate a scenario in which US Forces arrive at Israel to provide assistance in missile defense.
Thousands of US and Israeli service members will participate in the "Juniper Cobra", which is the IDF's largest joint training exercise. Routine will include both live and simulative training, as well as professional discourse and acquaintance with the commanders.
"The strategic cooperation between the IDF and the US Armed Forces doesn't rely on training exercises but on operational missions", said Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovich, Commander of the IAF Aerial Defense Division. "When necessary, US Forces will deploy in Israel and fight alongside Israel's Aerial Defense Division in order to protect Israel from missiles. This is the only division in the IDF whose operational goal includes cooperation with international forces, and the breadth of this exercise is unprecedented. This is an opportunity for the Aerial Defense Division to utilize all of its weapon systems and capabilities in one linear scenario and examine the division's fitness".
Two Countries, One Goal
Participating IAF Forces include the Aerial Defense Division, IAF Headquarters, a designated exercise directorate, Home Front Command and personnel from Israel's defense industries. The participating US Forces are comprised of a EUCOM brigade whose mission is to assist Israel in missile defense.
"The exercise is a rehearsal, simulating situations we are due to experience in real-time scenarios and enabling us to properly perform our operational duty. There are no airborne missiles during the exercise, which is performed solely using challenging simulations meant to emulate the expected scenarios as well as possible", described Brig. Gen. Gershon Zlotnik, Deputy Division Commander. "The cooperation's biggest challenge is the need for complete coordination between the two countries, from conversing in English to using multiple weapon systems at the same time. However, the mutual training forms interpersonal relationships which strengthen the will to protect Israel together".
Side By Side
The first part of the training exercise involves deploying the American “Patriot” weapon systems while practicing security and logistical organization. During the second part, the forces simulate challenging scenarios, in which “Patriot” weapon systems, THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) and the AEGIS Combat System are coordinated with IAF’s weapon systems – “David’s Sling”, “Iron Dome” and “Arrow”. The scenarios are visualized in the weapon system’s command and control stations using a complex scenario initiator brought by US Forces.
“In aerial defense, interception systems operate at different altitudes. As a result, we must synchronize them to achieve their full effect”, explained Lt. Col. Tal Kadori, Head of the Cooperation Branch. “During the training exercise, American soldiers and Israeli soldiers sit side by side and make decisions together. The extent of the exercise brings about a need to debrief the series of operational events on a daily basis so we can draw conclusions for the following day”.
Practice Makes Perfect
The “Juniper Cobra” exercise changes in accordance with the dynamic operational reality. Aerial transport of equipment and forces was practiced for the first time in a decade. “The exercise is of great importance, and provides us with a chance to practice organization on a large-scale”, concluded Brig. Gen. Haimovich. “The exercise also enables us to strengthen our bond with the US Military on a professional, operational and personal level”.