by: Janet Aslin
Tuesday, 26 October 2021 | Ibrahim Nasser Muhammed al-Alawi, head of the Emrati air force, arrived yesterday to participate in a special conference for senior officials during Israel’s 12-day “Blue Flag” exercises, an international aerial drill.
Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin, head of the Israel Air Force (IAF), welcomed his Emrati counterpart with an honor guard reception at the IAF’s Palmachim base. This marks al-Alawi’s first official visit to Israel since the Abraham Accords were signed last year.
This year’s “Blue Flag,” which began on October 17, is the fifth to have taken place since the event was first held in 2013. Brig. Gen. Amir Lazar, head of the IAF’s Training and Doctrine Division, said that al-Alawi’s visit this year is “very significant.”
Although the United Arab Emirates (UAE) did not send fighter jets to the event this year, Israeli and Emrati pilots flew together earlier this year in an exercise held by Greece.
Lazar continued, “We believe that holding the exercise has great strategic value for the Israeli Air Force and the State of Israel. As part of the exercise, we are hosting a day for senior officials on Tuesday, in which 11 air force chiefs from around the world will take part, including—for the first time—the head of the United Arab Emirates air force,” as reported by the Times of Israel.
Seven nations have joined Israel to fly in what has been described as “Israel’s largest and most advanced aerial exercise ever.” Seventy fighter jets with over 1,500 personnel from Germany, Italy, Britain, France, India, Greece and the United States are participating.
In addition to being the first time one of Israel’s neighbors has taken part in the exercise, several other “firsts” were noted by Israel’s i24News: “The event marks the first deployment of a British fighter squadron in Israel since the establishment of the country, as well as the first deployments in Israel of an Indian “Mirage” fighter squadron and French “Rafale” fighter squadron.”
IAF chief Norkin said, “I thank you, Maj. Gen. Al Alawi, for this visit to Israel. This is a truly historic day with tremendous significance for the future of cooperation between our air forces,”
Now that the UAE has broken the ice, perhaps the 2023 “Blue Flag” exercise will see the participation of other countries in the region.
Posted on October 26, 2021
Source: (Bridges for Peace, October 26, 2021)
Photo Credit: Robert Sullivan/flickr
Photo License: flickr.com
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