This week, the Israeli Air Force (Zroa HaAvir VeHahalal) and French French Navy Naval Aviation (Armée de l’Air Française) held a joint exercise in Israel. The principle part of the exercise was a combined flight between IAF Squadron 107 and French forces, with the assistance of IAF Squadron 122 Air Traffic Control team. French fighter pilots trained alongside the Israeli Air Force as part of a joint exercise focusing on air-to-air combat in an exercise that allowed the pilots to practice coordinating with foreign forces and their English. The exercise featured three-on-three dogfights, with one group of pilots — the “red team” — tasked with carrying out an airstrike while the second group — the “blue team” — tried to stop them, one of the participating Israeli pilots.
Three French Dassault Rafale fighter jets took part in the exercise, flying into southern Israel from an aircraft carrier off the coast. The Israeli pilots, from the 107th Air Squadron, flew F-16I jets out of the Ovda air base north of Eilat. This kind of joint exercise, along with larger multinational ones, allow Israeli pilots the opportunity to learn tactics and techniques from other air forces and learn to work together with unfamiliar pilots and aircraft, something they may have to do operationally in the future. On a more strategic level, these exercises also allow Israel to maintain strong military ties with countries around the world, regardless of any diplomatic or political tensions. In some cases, Israeli pilots have even participated in exercises alongside countries that do not formally recognize the State of Israel.
In order to further force the two countries to work together, instead of having each country face off against each other, the two teams included both Israeli and French pilots. Unlike in most of the air force’s international exercises, the French pilots who took part in this week’s drill did not stay in Israel but rather went back to the French Navy aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle at the end of each day’s training. The French never came ashore, the Israeli and French pilots never met in person before the exercise, though they did speak by phone. the Israeli Air Force pilots also flown by helicopter out to the French aircraft carrier aircraft.