Nov. 18 (UPI) -- Israel's two-week Blue Flag exercise, involving five countries and fifth-generation fighter planes, ended successfully on Monday at the Ovda air base in southern Israel.
It was the fourth biennial exercise hosted by the Israeli Air Force, and although the maneuvers of F-35 fighter plane variants of Israel, the United States, Germany, Greece and Italy were the stars, more than 70 aircraft and 1,000 personnel were involved.
The United States was represented about 250 airmen of the 52nd Fighter Wing, stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The unit demonstrated its expertise in suppressing air defense by the simulated use of Patriot missiles to defend against surface-to-air missiles and operated amid enemy radar and transmitters.
The event demonstrated some of the Israelis' cutting-edge fighter plane tactics and "reinforces the idea that Israel has partners with whom it could operate cooperatively in extreme circumstances," said Dan Shapiro, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, who attended some of the demonstrations.
"Israel stands by its ethos of fighting its own battles and defending itself by itself, but it is possible to imagine wider regional conflicts where Israel would operate with friendly nations, and this exercise enhances the capability for interoperability," Shapiro said.
F-35, F-15, F-16, helicopters, drones, a Boeing 707 and Gulfstream G550 plane usable for early airborne warning each were a part of the demonstrations.
A week into the drills, an Israeli airstrike killed a commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza. That was followed by 48 hours of fighting along the Israel-Gaza border. About 450 rockets were fired into Israel, 90 percent of which were stopped by the Iron Dome missile system.