The much anticipated American-Israeli joint military drill is set to begin in just two weeks, an Israeli army source says. TheBlaze reported in January on the original plans for the exercise – dubbed Austere Challenge 12 – which had been planned for last spring but was then postponed until this fall.The scope of the forces participating was also significantly scaled back, with Time reporting in August that Washington was “slashing by more than two-thirds the number of American troops going to Israel and reducing both the number and potency of missile-interception systems at the core of the joint exercise.”
Still, it’s being called in Israeli media reports the “largest-ever” joint U.S.-Israeli defense drill and will begin on October 21.
Yediot Aharonot reports that U.S. military officers have begun arriving in Israel in preparation for the larger landing of military personnel on October 14. It also reports that among the hardware to be tested are the Arrow anti-ballistic missile batteries and Iron Dome interception systems.
The Jerusalem Post provides more details:
On October 14, large numbers of American soldiers are expected to begin arriving in Israel, where they will set up aerial defense positions on Israeli territory and on US Navy vessels off the Israeli coastline.
The three-week drill will simulate various missile defense scenarios, and is expected to end with a live-fire interception of a decoy incoming Patriot missile.
One of the objectives of the drill is to facilitate the rapid deployment of US missile defense systems to Israel and test their ability to operate in conjunction with Israeli defense systems during a conflict.
The talk of a possible Israeli strike on Iran’s nuclear program continues, and on Tuesday Foreign Policy quoted an unnamed source who said that one option being discussed is “a joint U.S.-Israeli surgical strike targeting Iranian enrichment facilities.”
The IDF Spokesman emphasizes the joint drill was planned long ago and is not related to the news of the week, telling the Post that “the US and Israel hold regular joint exercises between the militaries.” The IDF also insists that the drill is “unrelated to any pinpoint developments in the region.”
Coincidence or not, simultaneously on October 21, the Israeli Home Front Command is holding a nation-wide emergency drill testing rescue services’ response to an earthquake. That exercise is called “Turning Point 6,” in which – as Yediot Aharonot reports – Home Front forces will be drilled, along with police and emergency medical services, simulating their response to an earthquake. Though incoming missiles are not the main focus of that exercise, the paper reports that rescue services’ procedure when responding to buildings damaged by earthquakes and incoming missiles is similar.
Military sources tell Yediot “There is no connection between the two exercises, the overlapping date is coincidental.” [Hebrew link].