Israel hosted its largest-ever multinational air exercises involving air forces from the United States and several European nations, with nine countries involved in all.

There will be over 1,000 pilots, technicians and other support personnel participating in Blue Flag 2017. Air forces from United States, Greece, Poland, France, Italy and Germany will be participating in the exercise, called Blue Flag 2017. Also, for the first time a team from India will participate.

In addition there is another country involved in the drills that Israel has not named publicly. In all, 50 fighter planes were involved and more than 300 sorties were flown.

For many of the pilots participating, it was the first time they experienced a “lock-on” of a Russian-made surface-to-air missile, organizers said. Also, when the sortie flown was against a ground convoy, an actual convoy was “attacked” to simulate a real-world, real-war scenario.

“The participating nations arrived in Israel in their own aircraft and will practice different situations and scenarios,” an IDF statement said.

The hope of the exercise, according to the Israeli army, is to sharpen technical skills and improve “diplomatic cooperation between the countries.”

Analyst comment: The exercises are timely if simmering rivalries in the Middle East — between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and Iranian proxy Hezbollah and Israel — boil over into a shooting war that may envelop the entire region and draw in foreign powers. 

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