The Associated Press reports: The Israeli military is gearing up together with U.S. forces for a major missile defense exercise, the Israeli military announced Thursday, as tension between Iran and the international community escalates.
The drill is called “Austere Challenge 12” and is designed to improve defense systems and cooperation between the U.S. and Israeli forces. It follows a 10-day Iranian naval exercise near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
Israel’s military said the drill with the U.S. was planned long ago and is not tied to recent events.
Both Israeli and U.S. officials said the exercise would be the largest-ever joint drill by the two countries.
Martin Van Creveld, a military historian at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, said Thursday that the drill was intended not only to practice military maneuvers but also to pressure Iran.
“Defending against an attack is not something that you improvise from today to tomorrow. It’s something you have to prepare, you have to rehearse, you have to prepare for,” Van Creveld said. “This, among other things, is an exercise to show Iran, the people in Tehran, that Israel and the United States are ready to counterattack,” he said.
Just before Christmas, the Jerusalem Post reported: Last week, Lt.-Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the US’s Third Air Force based in Germany, visited Israel to finalize plans for the upcoming drill, expected to see the deployment of several thousand American soldiers in Israel.
The drill, which is unprecedented in its size, will include the establishment of US command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany – with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East.
The US will also bring its THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) and shipbased Aegis ballistic missile defense systems to Israel to simulate the interception of missile salvos against Israel.
Israel’s Infolive.tv broadcast a report on the upcoming exercise last July.
Last August the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) — one of the pillars of the Israel lobby in Washington — reported:
The Israel Defense Force’s two premier training bases recently saw some 200 U.S. Marines spend a month improving their counter-terror and urban combat skills alongside Israeli troops. At nearly the same time, the U.S. Army announced that in May 2012 it intends to hold Austere Challenge, one of the largest joint exercises in the history of the two countries that will take place in Israel. Just as significant, the annual U.S.-Israel Juniper Cobra missile defense exercises will take place just before the joint IDF-U.S. Army exercise.
As part of the ongoing cooperation between IDF ground forces and the U.S. Marine Corps, a company from the U.S. Marine Corps’ Security Force Regiment, a dedicated security and anti-/counter-terrorism unit, came to Israel in July for a month of intensive training alongside IDF soldiers at IDF facilities.