The Holiday of Sukkot and the tradition of Ushpizin it entails got us thinking about all of the guests that came to visit the IAF this year. From the Commander of the USAF, through joint training with the Indian Air Force and to singing a strategic agreement

Zohar Boneh

Sukkot is upon us and with it, comes an extraordinary tradition: Ushpizin. The unique tradition states that seven guests, one for each night, are invited into the Sukkah. We in the IAF follow this tradition all year. Throughout the year, hundreds of representatives of air forces from around the world are hosted by the IAF, for training exercises and mutual visits. We, of course, also travel far and wide in order to train with our friends from across the globe.

“This year, our international cooperation reached new levels, we haven’t had a year like this before”, stated Lt. Col. Sigal Benglass, Head of the IAF International Affairs Branch. “Next year will be fascinating in the field of international cooperation, the exceptional activity we had this year will only grow stronger and deeper with the different countries we have relations with and will even broaden to include additional countries”.

The Blue Flag
The “Blue-Flag” International Training Exercise, the IAF’s largest aerial exercise in the past year, was the IAF’s flagship exercise. The exercise hosted many foreign air forces such as the United States, Polish and Hellenic Air Forces. During the exercise, 245 sorties which simulated different scenarios took off and 102 aircrew members, 416 technicians, administrative and support workers and 54 aircraft from all over the world participated.

“Our objective is simply to fly”, said Maj. Gen. Jan Sliwka, the Polish Air Force Inspector, after completing a flight. “This is the second ‘Blue-Flag’ exercise, and this year, the scenarios are better and ‘Ouvda’ AFB presented us with optimal conditions for practice. We learned a lot from one another, shared experiences and also had the opportunity to experience the Israeli culture”.

IAF Ushpizin

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From all Around the World
One of this year’s most prominent exercises was the “Juniper Cobra” IAF Aerial Defense Division and U.S Army joint training exercise, which was held this year for the eighth time. For about three weeks, Israeli Aerial Defense Division personnel operated its systems shoulder by shoulder with USEUCOM personnel. “The exercise is an opportunity for the Americans to perform a full simulative exercise with a real scenario. A similar exercise in Europe would not be as effective as in Israel, it would be theoretical only”, explained Brig. Gen. Nitzan Nuriel, Head of the Exercise Directorate. “When training in Israel there is a tangible enemy and concrete threat, the exercise is based on real intelligence”.

IAF Ushpizin

Photography: Mor Tzidon

In June, the IAF hosted a unique conference: Operators of the M-346 “Lavi” (Hebrew for Lion) from all over the world, congregated in Hazerim AFB for a mutual discussion regarding the operation of the jet, knowledge sharing and tightening of cooperation. Technical teams and aircrews from countries such as Italy and Poland that also operate the jet participated in the conference.

Another “Ushpizin” that the IAF hosted this year was fighter pilots from the Indian Air Force, one of the largest in the world. The pilots arrived in Israel as a part of an aircrew exchange program, the first of its kind in the history of cooperation between the two forces. The program will be concluded with a visit of the “One” Squadron personnel to India.

IAF Ushpizin

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Into the Great Wide Open
The IAF also traveled hundreds of kilometers away from home and set out to visit countries like the U.S, Cyprus and Greece in order to participate in small and large training exercises and rehearse various scenarios in different playgrounds.

Last month, the IAF’s “Sufa” F-16I Squadrons and the “Desert Giants” Squadron, which operates the “Re’em” (Boeing 707) returned from the “Red-Flag” exercise, which was held in “Nellis” AFB, Nevada. During the exercise, which is considered one of the most challenging and realistic in the world of combat aviation, the squadrons rehearsed coalition flying with multiple air forces such as the USAF and Spanish Air Force. “We were on base with partner countries, so we had a chance to observe their techniques and methods, what we do similarly and differently. We had the opportunity to learn from their experience and understand where we can improve”, shared Maj. Gil, Head of the Overseas Exercises Department.

IAF Ushpizin

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The IAF’s “Yas’ur” (CH-35) and “Yanshuf” (Blackhawk) Helicopter Squadrons and “Tzofit” (Beechcraft King Air B-200) aircraft also took off for a training exercise in a foreign country. For two consecutive weeks the Israeli aircraft trained in the skies of Greece alongside HAF AH-64D Apache combat helicopters and fighter jets. “Greece is a strategic partner of the state of Israel. Cooperation in the military rank is important and fertile for both countries and allows us to train better and maintain our preparedness”, said Brig. Gen. Nir Nin-Nun, the Commander of the Air Support and Helicopter Division. “This exercise is part of a priceless cooperation. In the past, the Greeks traveled to Israel to train with us. I think that this cooperation is stable and has a horizon of partnership, mutual trust and friendship between two countries helping each other”.

IAF Ushpizin

Photography: Capt. Sapir

Cooperation Begins with People
During the past year, 15 Commanders of foreign Air Forces visited the IAF. Among them were the Commanders of the United States, Hellenic, Indian, German and Canadian Air Forces. In each of these visits, the foreign commanders met with Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, IAF Commander and toured the IAF. They were exposed to the IAF’s strength and understood what they could contribute to one another. Gen. Eshel also participated in a trip this year in which he was hosted in India. He is expected to soon participate in a training exercise in France.

 

IAF Ushpizin

Photography: Adi Abu

“Most significant partner”
Between exercises, in the passing July a strategic agreement between the Israeli and U.S Air Force was signed by Brig. Gen. Tal Kelman, Chief of IAF Air Staff and Maj. Gen. Lawrence M. Martin, Jr., the Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs.

In the meeting, the two institutionalized the cooperation between the forces and signed a mutual work plan for 2017. “This is a meeting of great strategic importance with our most significant partner. In the meeting we promoted all of the cooperative fields with the USAF, while emphasizing the cooperation in preparation of the arrival of the ‘Adir’ (F-35I) in December”, said Brig. Gen. Kelman.

IAF Ushpizin

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Cooperation: A Meaningful Tool
Throughout the past year, the world underwent many drastic events and changes which directly and indirectly impacted the IAF and other Air Forces around the world. These events have created the need for a significant change in policy and for a re-examination of new needs or strengthening of existing abilities. “Today, foreign air forces understand that they have to deal with terror, for example”, explained Lt. Col. Benglass. “A mission that the IAF has been dealing with for many years, and that it can teach foreign air forces”.