Special to WorldTribune.com
Israel pulled its F-15s from a U.S. exercise in Alaska amid increased tension on the Jewish state’s northern border.
U.S. Air Force public affairs officer Kitsana Dounglomchan said Israel decided not to send F-15s to the two-week-long Red Flag drill, which runs between April 26 – May 11 out of Eielson Air Force base in Fairbanks and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage.
“In light of the situational assessment by the Air Force it was decided to adjust the planes’ participation in the exercise,” an Israel Defense Forces (IDF) statement said, adding that, “Israel’s first participation in the Red Flag exercise in Alaska will take place as planned.”
Iran has been seen entrenching itself deeper into Syria with a growing presence near Israel’s northern border. Israel has vowed not to allow Iran to build a permanent military presence in Syria.
Israel’s F-15s, which have long-range strike and reconnaissance capabilities, are considered the backbone of the Israel Air Force.
In mid-April, the Russian military announced that Israel carried out an airstrike against Syria’s T4 airbase with two F-15s with guided missiles fired from Lebanese airspace.
The airstrike killed seven Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) soldiers, including Col. Mehdi Dehghan who led the drone unit operating out of the base.
“Despite this change, we are looking forward to hosting the Israeli contingent that will be partaking in Red Flag-Alaska 18-1,” Dounglomchan was quoted by local media as saying.
The Red Flag exercises take place several times a year bringing together U.S. and international forces for drills on realistic simulated combat situations. U.S. Pacific Air Forces, the Alaskan Command, said that over 60 aircraft “from more than a dozen units” will be taking part in the drill.
Israel regularly participates in U.S. Air Force’s main Red Flag exercises at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and the drill in Alaska is meant to offer pilots the opportunity to fly in combat scenarios which involve winter conditions such as snow and ice that Israeli pilots rarely get to drill on in the Middle East.
The “exercise is designed to provide realistic training in a simulated combat environment,” read a statement by the U.S. Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs, adding that “Red Flag-Alaska exercises provide unique opportunities to integrate various forces in a realistic threat environment.”