TEL AVIV – The Israeli Air Force on Wednesday ended a large-scale drill simulating multi-front combat action which for the first time included the U.S.-made F-35 fighter.
The drill, which began Sunday, involved every IAF squadron and included fighter jets, helicopters, cargo planes, drones, air defense units and ground support forces, the IDF said Tuesday.
The exercise simulated simultaneous fighting in the Gaza Strip, Syria and Lebanon, with Israel sustaining “thousands” of hits at the same time, a senior officer said.
“The entire air force is in the air. We are training for a war on several fronts simultaneously, with the focus being the northern sector,” the Hebrew-language Israel Hayom quoted the officer as saying, in apparent reference to the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah and other Iranian militias in Syria.
The scenarios also involved combating enemies equipped with sophisticated weaponry such as the Russian-made S-300 and S-400 air defense systems.
Squadrons were trained on how to deal with massive missile bombardment, malfunctioning communication centers, and the ability to strike in civilian population centers while minimizing the loss of innocent lives.
“We are training at very high intensity with a challenging, thinking enemy that possesses technology beyond what currently exists in the arena,” a senior air force official said.
According to the official, the F-35 provided a level of “lethality and multi-role capabilities.”
“We did not have these capabilities before,” he said.
The IAF’s 123rd helicopter squadron tested the deployment of commandos behind enemy lines as well as rescuing troops under fire.
Squadron commander Lt. Col. N., told Israel Hayom that his pilots would be tasked with coping with a number of threats at the same time. Flying low means that they would be out of reach of air defense systems, he said. On the other hand, they would be forced to deal with the same threats as a tank, including shoulder-launched rockets.
“When there are fighters on the ground, someone has to be above them to help them, whether they are Saar helicopters, UAVs, fighter planes,” he said.