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Nov 9, 3:04 PM EST

Israel holds large air force drill with 8 other countries


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AP Photo/Ariel Schalit

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JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israel's military said on Thursday that it was holding its largest-ever air drill, with pilots from eight countries and dozens of aircraft simulating combat scenarios and facing off in training exercises.

Some 1000 participants from the United States, Germany and France, among others, were in Israel for the drill codenamed "Blue Flag," the third of its kind. Germany, India and France were taking part for the first time.

Fighter jets, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles from participating countries were involved in the simulations, which range from air battles to dealing with anti-aircraft systems.

The military said the two-week drill, which takes place every two years, comes amid volatility in the region.

"Against that background, a drill this broad with countries that come here is very significant," said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations.

The official said the drill allows for the participating countries to learn from each other and to learn to work together should the need arise in the future.

The drill comes as Israel faces challenges from neighboring Syria where the Iran-backed Shiite Lebanese militant group Hezbollah is fighting alongside government forces. Israel fears its archenemy Iran will establish a Shiite "corridor" on its doorstep, with land links from Iran to Lebanon, allowing for the movement of militants and weapons across the region.

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