U.S., Israel Begin Joint Military Exercise

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The Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. military launched a major joint air defense exercise on Wednesday that the IDF said was not related to the regional situation. Nevertheless the exercise is intended to simulate various threats that Israel could encounter.

"The exercise will include various scenarios fitting the threats Israel faces," Brig.-Gen. Doron Gavish, head of the Israel Air Force's Air Defense Division, was quoted as saying.

This is the fifth in a series of biennial exercises dubbed Juniper Cobra. It will include both computer-simulated and real target practice exercises against missiles.

It is taking place as discussions between the world powers and Iran could produce a deal that would delay Iran's capability to produce nuclear weapons.

But the IDF said in a statement that the exercise "is not in response to any world events." Planning for the military exercise began a year and a half ago.

Some 1000 U.S. servicemen from the U.S. European Command , headed by Admiral John Richardson and a similar number of IDF soldiers will participate in the exercise.

Richardson said that the exercise was not directly related to recent announcements about ballistic missile defense in Europe "but the lessons and the insights that we gain from this exercise will certainly relate to developing that capability."

Gavish said that the IDF could defend Israel by itself but that it is "good to know that U.S. capabilities are available."

Sources: YNet, Ha'aretz, IDF

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