Israeli Air Force (IAF) fighter jets have landed in Germany for the first time. The deployment of six aircraft arrived at Nörvenich air base in the west of the country yesterday, and it is expected that the F-16s will participate in the BlueWings2020 and MAGDays exercises due to be held over the next two weeks.
The arrival marks a major milestone in Israeli-German relations. A joint flypast is planned to commemorate the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics and honour the memory of the millions murdered during the Holocaust. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak this will be the only Israeli overseas deployment this year, making the event all the more significant.
Two Israeli F-16 “Barak” squadrons are participating in the exercises, with 101st “First Fighter Squadron” and 105th “The Scorpion” each sending three aircraft. Supported by KC-707 “Re’em" and KC-130H “Karnaf” tanker and transport aircraft, the F-16s flew directly from their home base at Haztor in central Israel.
Also participating in the exercises are Gulfstream G500 “Nachshon-Shavit” and G550 “Nachshon-Eitam” aircraft. Although based on the popular Gulfstream business jet, both aircraft feature distinctive blisters and structural modifications to accommodate the new equipment. Operated by 122 Squadron, the “Nachshon Eitam” is a Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) platform and will provide airspace control, whilst the “Nachshon-Shavit” is fitted with SIGINT (signals intelligence) gathering equipment.
Commander of the 105th Squadron, Lt. Col. A. said: “This is an opportunity to showcase our abilities and learn about NATO’s flight and training technique.” Flying in Europe gives the Israelis an opportunity to train in unfamiliar skies with operating procedures different to their own: “We will fly in a different environment than we are used to in Israel, with different flight platforms and flight rules.”
Luftwaffe Typhoons of Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 31 (Tactical Air Force Wing 31) based at Nörvenich will fly with and against the Israeli jets in a number of different scenarios including DACT (Dissimilar Air Combat Training) and air-to-ground missions. The MAG (Multinational Air Group) Days exercises will bring together other NATO member nations giving the Israelis further exposure to tactics whilst allowing German pilots to learn from their far more operationally experienced colleagues.
Lt. Col. A. spoke of the benefits and positive challenges of flying with NATO: “The flights will be carried out using NATO’s combat doctrine as a pose to ours, which creates a challenge for the pilot and Weapons Systems Operator in the cockpit.”
Historically a very secretive air arm, the IAF have participated in an increased number of European exercises over the past few years. A large deployment arrived at RAF Waddington for Exercise Cobra Warrior last summer and training with their Greek neighbours is a regular occurrence.
Although the German military has come under renewed criticism for its lack of modernisation, the country forms an integral pillar to NATO’s defence of eastern Europe. Exercising with nations such as the Israelis should deliver a hugely beneficial boost in experience to the Luftwaffe.
The deployment is scheduled to run until August 28.