Yesterday, (Sunday), the "Enduring Lightning" exercise in southern Israel - joint training between Israeli "Adir" (F-35I) aircraft from the IAF's 140 squadron ("Golden Eagle"), alongside F-35 aircraft operated by the USAF's (United States Air Force) 34th Fighter Squadron, has come to an end.
The IAF's 122 squadron ("Nahshon"), which operates the "Nahshon" (Gulfstream G-500) Control Aircraft, also participated in the exercise, during which the teams faced various aerial and ground threats in advanced 5th generation aircraft.
Number One Partner
This is the third time "Adir" aircraft train alongside foreign F-35's. In June of 2019, the IAF, USAF, and RAF (Royal Air Force), joint training exercise "Tri-Lightning" took place. Additionally, in November of 2019, the international "Blue Flag" exercise hosted Italian F-35's, and as stated, this week, the IAF's "Adir" aircraft trained alongside its American counterpart. What's unique about the current exercise is its location - for the first time, American F-35 aircraft participated in a joint training exercise above Israeli skies.
"The Americans are our number one partner", shares Maj. T, Head of the IAF's International Exercises Department. "I see great importance in cooperating on the most advanced plane in our collection with us as hosts. The IAF finds it important to work together with the Americans, leaders of the F-35 project, see how they operate, learn from them, and strengthen cooperation in the field of cutting-edge aviation technology".
Maj. M, leader of the exercise on behalf of the 140 squadron, adds: "This will be the second time we'll fly alongside an American F-35. We aspire to stay as connected as possible to countries involved in its development project, and training with the Americans presents an excellent opportunity to do so since they have a lot of knowledge and expertise on the matter. The exercise we conducted was intimate. The forces flew in two formations of four, and communicated directly as opposed to through an indirect channel".
The exercise was held exclusively in the air, with no face-to-face encounters between Israeli and American teams. Additionally, debriefings and briefings were conducted using classified communications devices - all due to the worldwide COVID-19 outbreak. "During these times, holding this international training exercise with the world's most advanced flight platforms, while facing limitations - should not be taken for granted", describes Maj. T.
The exercise laid a foundation for more of its kind in the IAF's home court - Israel. "We intend to create an exercise so it will eventually become a home court exercise", explains Maj. T. "In other words, we aspire to train like we did yesterday with American forces here in Israel regularly".