Israel and the United States on Sunday initiated their largest-ever bilateral effort aimed at preparing to guard against ballistic missile threats, Agence France-Presse reported.
Approximately 1,000 U.S. European Command staffers would take part in the Austere Challenge 12 maneuvers from Israel, while roughly 2,500 more U.S. participants would join from the Mediterranean Sea and Europe, Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin said to journalists several days ago. One thousand Israeli military members are slated to support the planned three-week activity, according to AFP.
"Austere Challenge 12 is the largest aerial defense exercise to take place between the two militaries," according to an Israeli armed forces release. "These exercises are part of a planned training schedule that seeks to increase cooperation interoperability between the militaries. Planning for the exercise began over two years ago and is not a response to specific events in the region."
The effort would probably be interpreted as a gesture to Iran over its disputed atomic ambitions, AFP said. Franklin, though, echoed the Israeli comments in saying there was no connection.
"While the scenario is driven by the overall situation in the Middle East, AC12 is not related to any specific current event ... nor to any perceived tensions in the Middle East," said the three-star general, who commands 3rd Air Force at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Physical weapon activities were expected to take a backseat role to virtual management simulations in Austere Challenge 12, RIA Novosti reported on Sunday. The activity has absorbed $30 million in U.S. funds and $8 million in Israeli spending.