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American Service Members Participate in Joint Training Exercise With IDF

An Iron Dome air defense system in Ashkalon attempts to intercept a rocket fired from Gaza Strip / AP
• February 22, 2016 11:52 am

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JERUSALEM—More than 1,700 American service members, civilians and contractors have arrived in Israel to participate in a joint training exercise with the Israel Defense Forces in combating the threat of ballistic missiles and rockets.

Dubbed Juniper Cobra, the exercise has been held every other year since 2001. Participants train via computer simulations in dealing with a form of warfare with which Israel has probably had more practical experience than any other country in recent years—rocket launches on its urban centers.

"This is our nation’s premier exercise in the region, and EUCOM’s (U.S. European Command) highest priority exercise for 2016," said Maj. Gen. Mark Loeben, director of Exercises and Assessments at Headquarters for EUCOM.

The American participants have set up their own field headquarters for the exercise. They will get a close-up view of Israel’s Iron Dome batteries sited to defend the country’s southern communities from rockets fired from Gaza. Israeli officials say that Iron Dome has had a success rate of about 90 percent. The system intercepts only rockets, which its radar shows are on a trajectory to hit built-up areas, not open fields.

Participants this year will also be introduced to the newest addition to Israel’s arsenal—the David’s Sling system, designed to intercept medium-range missiles. The system, which can also be employed against aircraft, was declared operational last year by the Israel Missile Defense Organization and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, which participated in its development together with the Israeli firm, Rafael. The system is being transferred to the Israel Air Force, which will subject it to its own trials before it is fully deployed.

Participants in the exercise will also see simulations of the Arrow -3 system being developed, aimed primarily at Iranian ballistic missiles.

The United States has either jointly developed or financed all three tiers of Israel’s missile defense program—Iron Dome (short-range rockets), David’s Sling (medium-range), and Arrow (long range). Hezbollah, which poses the biggest threat to Israel at present, is reported to possess close to 100,000 rockets which can hit northern Israel (as 4,000 did in Israel’s 2006 war with Hezbollah) and a relatively small number of guided missiles capable of hitting targets anywhere in Israel.

A spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces said the exercise is intended to improve coordination between the two militaries in this area and bolster ballistic missile defensive capabilities. "This is another step in strategic relations between Israel and the United States and it will contribute greatly to regional stability."

Published under: Israel, Military