More than 3,500 American service members will join with Israeli allies for Exercise Austere Challenge 2012 in Israel next week, U.S. and Israeli officials said today.
The exercise will be conducted throughout Israel and off-shore, U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin and Israel Defense Forces Brig. Gen. Nitzan Nuriel said during a teleconference with reporters. Franklin commands the 3rd Air Force and is the senior U.S. commander for the exercise. Nuriel is the Israeli lead planner.
More than 1,000 U.S. military personnel are arriving in Israel for the exercise, Franklin said. “They will be in a variety of locations across the country for the next several weeks,” he said. The exercise will build on the long-standing relationship between the two countries, test the cooperative missile defense of Israel, and promote regional stability.
U.S. service members will man Patriot anti-missile systems, an Aegis ballistic missile defense ship and various other air defense systems. The Israelis will put more than 1,000 service members into the field and will test the Iron Dome and Arrow 2 systems. The Israelis will also tie the developing David’s Sling system into the scenarios.
Most of the three-week exercise will be simulation, but some training will entail live-fire, Nuriel said.
Austere Challenge 2012 is the largest U.S.-Israeli military exercise to date, Franklin said, and it is the latest in a long line of such exercises. The scenario for the exercise is not aimed at any specific threat or country in the region, both Franklin and Nuriel said.
“This exercise is purely about improving our combined U.S.-Israeli capabilities,” the U.S. general said. “It’s about military teamwork. It is not related to national elections nor any perceived tensions in the Middle East. We are military professionals coming together to train for a defensive mission.”
The U.S. has pledged $30 million to the exercise and the Israelis pegged their exercise costs at 30 million shekels –around $7.9 million.