Israeli military planes are taking part these days in the “Red Flag” international exercise organised by the U.S. Airforce at Nellis Airbase in the Nevada Desert. The IAF is represented by both fighter and cargo planes at the event. Among other international participants are fighters from Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates, also from Spain, the U.K. and Turkey.
According to U.S. officials, the “Red Flag” exercise is one of the top events of this magnitude in the world, where participating pilots are divided into two teams and simulate dog fights to improve both their aviation skills and their military’s international connections.
Israeli officials haven’t commented on the opportunity of flying alongside military airplanes from Pakistan and the U.A.E., but the exercise is seen as an opportunity to learn new things, according to an officer of the IAF.
“Flying outside of Israel is very different from flying out of Ramat David. You don’t know the area, you’re speaking in a different language. It lets you put a mirror up to yourself, and you learn a lot from that,” said a senior Israeli Air Force official earlier this month, speaking to reporters of The Times of Israel.
The officer added that international exercises shouldn’t be viewed as strictly military, but strategic in nature and with a good deal of diplomacy involved. “And the strategic benefits are not always direct; they can also be roundabout,” he concluded.
At the moment, Israel doesn’t have diplomatic ties with neither Pakistan or The United Arab Emirates, although the two Muslim countries are not viewed as enemy states in Israel. In the case of Pakistan, unofficial reports in the past years spoke of “contacts” between officials of the two countries, while in the case of the U.A.E. things went a bit more open. In November, Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold visited Bahrain in order to open its first diplomatic mission in Abu Dhabi, which is part of the United Arab Emirates.
Last year, Israeli pilots took part in the Red Flag exercise for the first time in six years. During the aerial simulation, Israeli Air Force planes flew with and reportedly refueled Jordanian fighter jets.