The US and Israel are within hours of launching their reportedly most-extensive-ever military maneuvers, which enlists 3,500 US personnel and 1,000 Israeli troops and is to last for some three weeks.
The “Austere Challenge 2012” (AC12), which Tel Aviv is to stage in cooperation with the United States European Command (EUCOM), was to begin on Sunday, Israeli media network Arutz Sheva reported on its English-language website.
“The scenario will focus on multiple areas and its goal will be to learn how to deal with various threats in the area,” said a source from the Israeli military.
The drills are to include review and examination of Israel’s Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile systems, both produced with the US assistance.
Lieutenant General Craig Franklin, the commander of the Third Air Force (3 AF), a numbered air force of the United States Air Forces in Europe, has described the drills as “the largest exercise in the history of the longstanding military relationship between the US and Israel.”
He has claimed “…the scenario is driven by the overall situation in the Middle East,” and said it “is not related to national elections nor to any perceived tensions in the Middle East.”
The US, Israel’s oldest and strongest ally, provides Tel Aviv with annual military assistance of about USD three billion.