Blue Flag is the largest multinational aerial warfare training exercise hosted by the Israeli air force. The exercise included forces from the U.S., Israel, Italy, and Greece. Its objectives were to improve operational capabilities and combat effectiveness of the participating nations, and to foster combined relations, cultural understanding, and combat experience.
“It was an outstanding experience for the more than 170-person U.S. Air Force team,” said Lt. Col. John Orchard, 492nd Fighter Squadron commander, Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, and Air Force Blue Flag commander. “The Israelis provided an excellent training environment, which offered us the opportunity to learn from each other, and to take advantage of good airspace, surface threat replicators, and challenging scenarios. It was a real pleasure integrating with our Israeli, Italian and Greek partners who all offer unique tactical, strategic and cultural perspectives.”
The exercise allowed for the partnering nations to integrate their tactical capabilities to complete a specific mission. It also further strengthened the relationship and military partnerships.
“This was a very good opportunity for the participating nations to work on efficiencies, to practice becoming more logistically sound, and how to get our forces from point A, to point B,” said Capt. Matthew Kuta, 492nd FS pilot. “It also provided us training on how to actually operate together to continue to provide stability to the area.”
The U.S. Air Force deployed F-15E aircraft and support personnel from RAF Lakenheath, England, and a Combat Communications team from Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
Prior to the start of the exercise, the visiting nations had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the airspace and flying procedures. The training week offered four days of flying and preparation.
“Week one of Blue Flag was dedicated to training and warm-up towards the actual exercise that took place during week two,” Kuta said. The airspace, mission duration, and some of the procedures were a little different to us. After the training week, we were ready to go.”
During the exercise, a realistic war scenario was created which employed a friendly, multinational force (Blue Force) against an enemy aggressor force (Red Force). A simulated threat environment was created which caused the partnering forces to use careful integration and critical analysis to engage the enemy and survive. The exercise included air-to-air and air-to-surface missions.
The Red Force invaded friendly airspace simulating opposing air forces’ tactics, attempting to engage specific targets and all approaching aircraft. Their actions called for Blue Force to take action and attempt to eliminate the threat. The combined force merged its tactics, techniques, and procedures that effectively terminated attacks by the adversary Red Forces.
Although these partnering air forces have trained separately together before, this was the first opportunity for the Israeli air force to conduct a multinational exercise of this magnitude in their country.
“We successfully completed the biggest multinational exercise in Israel’s history,” said a senior Israeli air force source. The exercise required many preparations by air and ground crews, long before the partnering air forces landed in Israel. This has helped Israel improve its general air defense capabilities while learning together and cooperating with global allies.”
U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, visited the exercise location along with a delegation of observers from different countries. The observers were able to witness some of the action to determine if their country would be interested in participating in future Blue Flag exercises. Israel plans to conduct the exercise every two years.
“Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood,” said Shapiro. “We need the best-equipped, best-trained forces as possible to protect our people and our security. We also need allies and we have great allies here, all training together and reinforcing a partnership that gets stronger with each passing year.”
The U.S. armed forces routinely participate in training exercises with NATO and other partner nations to improve interoperability and preparedness. However, this exercise offered a unique experience for the U.S. Air Force to train in unfamiliar airspace, with great partners.
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