U.S., Israel begin joint missile defense operations in Juniper Cobra

Elements of the U.S. military and Israel’s defense forces have begun the largest-ever joint anti-missile exercises in the Jewish nation, as a means of countering a rising missile threat from Hezbollah, Syria, and Iran.

Around 2,000 missile defense troops from the IDF are joining about 2,500 U.S. personnel in the drills, called Juniper Cobra.

In response to the rising missile threats from regional enemy states and their proxies, Israel is pressing to build a multi-layered missile defense with its Arrow 2 and Arrow 3, Iron Dome and David’s Sling anti-missile systems.

Israel is seeking U.S. assistance in helping to construct the multi-layered defenses.

“When necessary, US forces will deploy in Israel and fight alongside Israel’s Aerial Defense Division in order to protect Israel from missiles,” Brig. Gen. Tzvika Haimovich, commander of the IAF Aerial Defense Division, said. “This is the only division in the IDF whose operational goal includes cooperation with international forces, and the breadth of this exercise is unprecedented. This is an opportunity for the Aerial Defense Division to utilize all of its weapon systems and capabilities in one linear scenario and examine the division’s fitness.”

In the weeks prior to the exercise kick-off, large U.S. transport aircraft moved several of the most advanced ballistic missile detection and intercept batteries to be used for the exercise. In addition, hundreds of U.S. military personnel also deployed to operate the systems alongside the IDF.

In the exercise, we simulate situations we expect to experience in real-time scenarios. No interceptors are launched during the exercise, which is performed solely using challenging simulations meant to emulate the expected scenarios,” described Brig. Gen. Gershon Zlotnik, deputy division commander. “The cooperation’s biggest challenge is the need for complete coordination between the two countries, from conversing in English to using multiple weapon systems at the same time. However, the mutual training forms interpersonal relationships which strengthen the will to protect Israel together.”

“In aerial defense, interception systems operate at different altitudes. As a result, we must synchronize them to achieve their full effect”, said Lt. Col. Tal Kadori, Head of the Cooperation Branch. “During the training exercise, American soldiers and Israeli soldiers sit side by side and make decisions together. The extent of the exercise brings about a need to debrief the series of operational events on a daily basis so we can draw conclusions for the following day.”

American defense media noted further:

The first part of the training exercise involves deploying the American Patriot anti-missile system, while practicing security and logistical organization. During the second part, the forces simulate challenging scenarios, in which Patriots, THAAD and the AEGIS Combat System all coordinate with Israel’s David’s Sling, Iron Dome and Arrow. The scenarios are visualized in the weapon system’s command and control stations using a complex simulator provided by the US. [source]

Analysis: What this says more than anything is that Israel can count on and expect direct U.S. military support and involvement — the actual placement of American personnel and systems in harm’s way — should the Jewish state be attacked. Short of a public announcement by President Trump and Israeli PM Netanyahu, this is the clearest sign yet to Iran and its proxies, as well as those of the Syrian government and even Russia, that any attack on Israel will trigger immediate lethal aid and assistance from the U.S. military. That alone may have just prevented an attack on Israel, which Iran has been steadily angling for, especially over the last few years as it deepened involvement in Syria’s civil war.

Of course, this comes on the heels of the establishment of the first permanent U.S. military base in Israel — an air defense base, no less. [source]

The U.S., under President Trump, is quickly reestablishing itself as Israel’s main major ally and protector. 

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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