The Israeli Air Force and NATO – be out, feel in

The fact that Israel is not a NATO member is considered abnormal by many. Until this abnormality is corrected, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) is expanding its operational cooperation with a growing number of air forces.


Some Israeli leaders are convinced that joining NATO would act as a vital deterrent against Iran. But that conviction is not enough.


But until this conviction turns into a joining ceremony, the IAF has in recent years stepped up its joint exercises with foreign air forces of NATO countries. This operational cooperation started with joint exercises with Turkey.


The joint exercises with Turkey have been stopped because of the severance of ties following the events of the “Peace Flotilla” that was intercepted on its way to Gaza by the Israeli navy.


With Turkey off the list, Israel created “working relations” with other air forces, namely Romania and Greece, and they reacted with enthusiasm.


Now the joint exercises seem to be according to a well-defined programme and all signs point to many more.


The Greek air force is a direct substitute for the Turkish one. The IAF will continue performing joint exercises with the Greek air force. Some will be held in Israel and some in Greece.


Last November, five Greek air force F-16 Block 52s landed at the IAF’s Uvda base in southern Israel and took part in a five-day exercise, which included practice air fights as well as ground attacks.


Israeli F-15 and F-16 fighter jets also participated in the exercise, along with a Boeing 707 air tanker.


The exercise with the Greeks, and one performed earlier with the Italian air force, are aimed first to allow the IAF to train with air forces that have different approaches to different missions, and to allow the Israeli pilots fly to longer distances.


I am not sure if and when Israel will join NATO but its air force is seeking every opportunity to jointly fly and perform drills with pilots from other countries in the region in its vast, expanded definition.


NATO is not mentioned in these joint exercises but it is clear that “mutual interests” are in the background.


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