For the first time, the German Luftwaffe participated in the Israeli Air Force exercise “Blue Flag”, the country's largest international air combat exercise, designed to simulate extreme combat scenarios. The German Air Forcesent to the exercise, which began on 5th November 2017, six Eurofighter Typhoon fighter jets of the tactical air force squadron 73 Steinhoff from Rostock. It is the first German participation in the Blue Flag exercise.
According to the Israeli Air Force, Blue Flag 2017 was the largest international aerial training exercise in the IAF's history. Over eleven days, the “Blue Flag” exercise was held with nearly 100 fighter jets and more than 1.000 support staff and pilots. Throughout the first week of the two week-long exercise, the international aircrews acclimatised themselves to the base. From the second week onwards, the participants rehearsed complex scenarios and coalition flights. During some of the sorties, the participants were flying against the “Flying Dragon” Squadron, the IAF’s aggressor squadron, which simulated enemy forces with “enemy” aircraft, SAM (Surface-to-air missile) batteries and MANPADS (Man-portable air-defense systems).
While Israel and Germany have trained together before, this was the first time in nearly 100 years, since World War I, that Luftwaffe fighter planes flew over Israel. “It was a very emotional moment for us when the German Luftwaffe parked in our bunker”, said Colonel Itamar, commander of the Israeli airbase Uvda. German Squadron Commander Lieutenant Colonel Gero von Fritschen said that it was “a great honor to be among the first German fighter pilots who are here in the airspace."
Germany was not the only newcomer to Blue Flag: France and India were also present for the first time. In total there were seven nations represented.
The aim of the “Blue-Flag” training exercise is to simulate extreme combat scenarios and coalition flights as realistically as possible. The exercise hosts air forces from the US, Poland, Italy and Greece, and for the first time India, France and Germany.
Blue Flag first took place in 2013, with the USA, Italy and Greece. Israeli forces described it as the largest international military exercise in the history of Israel.