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US and Israeli forces kick off major missile defense exercise

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The U.S. military and the Israeli Defense Forces are building their partnership through a large-scale missile defense exercise, dubbed Juniper Falcon, that will take place throughout February.

Juniper Falcon ’21 is focused on ballistic missile defense and crisis response and is taking place in various locations in both Israel and Germany.

Historically, Juniper Falcon had included a variety of different training events. But this year, because of the Coronavirus pandemic, the exercise had to focus on more remote warfighting rather than large formations of troops.

Juniper Falcon has three primary aims. First, to strengthen cooperation and coordination between the U.S. military and the Israeli Defense Forces. Second, to promote mutual learning for both militaries. And finally, to improve the interoperability of the two militaries and their ability to defend against a wide range of threats.

“The Juniper Falcon exercise series serves as an opportunity for U.S. military personnel and the IDF to exercise together and to learn from one another. JF21 represents another step in the deliberate and strategic relationship between the U.S. and Israel and contributes to overall regional stability,” EUCOM said in a statement.

IDF member wearing the Juniper Falcon 21 patch. The major missile defense exercise will take place throughout February (IDF).

This isn’t the first time the U.S. military and the Israeli Defense Forces have practiced missile defense. A few years ago, more than 3,000 U.S. troops participated in an exercise that simulated a massive missile attack on Israel.

The US and Israel share a close missile defense relationship, with both sharing intelligence and capabilities. For example, recently, the US Army received the Israeli-made Iron Dome ballistic defense system.

“The exercise simulates different scenarios in which Israel finds itself under threat of attack by ballistic missiles and other aerial threats. It is meant to strengthen cooperation, coordination and mutual learning between the two militaries, to improve their readiness to jointly defend against various threats and to expand and preserve the deep strategic cooperation between the militaries and countries,” the Israeli Defense Forces said in a statement.

Although Israel will be moved under the U.S. Central Command’s area of responsibility, the timeline for that move is still unclear as the new administration will have to approve it.

It will be interesting to see if the Israeli Defense Forces will continue to participate in EUCOM-held exercises even after Israel is officially moved under CENTCOM given the deep relationship between EUCOM and Israel and also the institutional memory that already exists.

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Stavros Atlamazoglou

Greek Army veteran (National service with 575th Marines Battalion and Army HQ). Johns Hopkins University. You will usually find him on the top of a mountain admiring the view and wondering how he got there.