Israeli air force rethinks international co-operation

There are signs that something is changing in the Middle East as far as air power is concerned. The shift in US policy towards some countries in the region and the Gulf is affecting the way armed forces think.

So here is another possible small sign. In the midst of the multinational “Blue Flag” exercise held in Israel last week, Bulgarian air force commander Maj Gen Konstantin Popov landed in Israel as part of the growing co-operation between the the two contries’ air forces.This according to the Israeli air force website.

“I believe the co-operation has two parts: first, we should get a better understanding of each other’s lives, traditions and training methods,” explained Popov during his visit to the “Scorpion” squadron at Hatzor air base. “The second and main purpose is to enhance military co-operation in… aerial training activities. We have good relations with the Israeli air force commander, Maj Gen Amir Eshel, and I’m impressed with his work and vision.”

This is not the first time the two forces have met. The first joint training exercise was two years ago. The Scorpion squadron, operating F-16s, made its first visit to Bulgaria for training.

“The Bulgarian and Israeli air forces have a short but very fruitful bilateral training history,” said Popov. “In the future, the Bulgarian air force is interested in including more platforms and missions in the training with the Israeli air force.”

During his stay in Israel, Popov watched Blue Flag exercise at Ovda air base last week. “I am really impressed with the exercise,” he said afterwards. “It is an international exercise that is being held for the first time in Israel and the execution was perfect. It was a great opportunity to be here and to observe how the leading forces in military aviation perform advanced and realistic pilot training.”

A look at the world map can explain Popov’s perspective on current and future co-operation. Now that Turkey and Israel are no longer allies, Israel needs substitutes. Bulgaria is without any doubt one of them.

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