NATO nations, Israel conclude groundbreaking F-35 war games said to target Iran
The nine-day Falcon Strike 21 air combat exercises in Italy ended on June 17. The website of NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Command Europe reported that 600 personnel and F-35 fifth-generation combat aircraft from Britain, Israel, Italy and the U.S. participated in “complex scenarios,” and among other facets of the exercise staged “interoperability” training with units of the British Royal Navy.
The war games, hosted by Italy, were the first of their kind: a multinational effort by three NATO founding members and NATO partner Israel to stage integrated drills with the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for prospective use against a common adversary. Respectively, the participants supplied:
U.S. – Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs, Marine Corps F-35B Lightning IIs and F-16C Fighting Falcons
Britain – Royal Air Force F-35B Lightning IIs
Israel: Air Force F-35I Adirs and Gulfstream G550 specialized surveillance aircraft
Italy – Air Force F-35A and F-35B Lightning IIs, F-2000 Eurofighter Typhoons, Panavia Tornados, Alenia Aermacchi T-346s, AMX International ground attack aircraft, MQ-1 Predators and Gulfstream G550s
The newly-launched HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, flagship of the British Royal Navy, and its strike group also participated.
NATO’s account of the above reads thus:
“Modern F-35 fighter aircraft from three Allies and Partner Israel flew integration missions with Italian Eurofighter, T-346, Tornado and AMX jets, US Air Force F-16 fighters, tanker aircraft and conformal airborne early warning aircraft as well as the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elisabeth in the Mediterranean Sea.”
Drills were held on the Italian mainland and in Sardinia and Sicily.
A Times of Israel report with the title In first, Israeli F-35s train in Italy – with Iran in their sights, described the participation of Israeli F-35s as the largest and farthest drill they have participated in to date. The newspaper further revealed that, “Though the explicit goal of the exercise is to improve the overall capabilities of the F-35 jet…a senior Israeli Air Force officer acknowledged that in part, this drill…was meant to prepare Israeli pilots for using the fighter aircraft against Iranian forces.”