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U.S. and Israel launch a massive joint military exercise to send a message to Iran and others

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Monday, 23 January, 2023, 22:48
U.S. and Israel launch a massive joint military exercise to send a message to Iran and others

The United States and Israel began a massive joint military exercise in Israel on Monday to show adversaries like Iran that Washington is not too distracted by the war in Ukraine and the threat from China to mobilize a large military force, a senior defense official said.

Juniper Oak 23 is “the most significant exercise between the United States and Israel to date,” the official said, citing the enormous number of aircraft, extensive coordination with the Israel Defense Forces, and the complicated live-fire component.
Approximately 6,400 U.S. personnel have joined 1,100 Israeli personnel for the exercise, which will employ 142 total aircraft. Of them, 100 aircraft are from the U.S. military, including four B-52 bombers, four F-35 fighter jets, 45 F/A-18 Hornet fighters and two MQ-9 Reaper drones. Six U.S. ships, including a carrier strike group, and six Israeli ships will also participate.

Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of U.S. Central Command, said, “Juniper Oak is a Combined Joint All-Domain exercise which improves our interoperability on land, in the air, at sea, in space, and in cyberspace with our partners, enhances our ability to respond to contingencies, and underscores our commitment to the Middle East.”

“What we think this exercise demonstrates is we can walk and chew gum at the same time,” the senior defense official who spoke to NBC News said, citing the focus on China and the roughly 100,000 forces in Europe to support NATO and Ukraine.

“We still have the excess capacity to be able to flex to another high priority area of responsibility and conduct an exercise on this scale.”

The official said that the exercise is not oriented around a particular nation, but that regional adversaries like Iran will take notice.

“The scale of the exercise is relevant to a whole range of scenarios, and Iran may draw certain inferences from that,” the official said. “It’s really meant mostly to kick the tires on our ability to do things at this scale with the Israelis against a whole range of different threats. But, you know, it would not surprise me if Iran sees the scale and the nature of these activities and understands what the two of us are capable of doing.”

Unlike many military drills, this one is all-domain, meaning it includes naval, land, air, space and electronic warfare exercises. It culminates with a live-fire exercise that will expend 180,000 pounds of live munitions while simulating suppression of enemy air defenses, strategic air interdiction and electronic attack. The U.S. will use four U.S. Army HIMARs rocket launchers, laser-guided bombs and stealthy “low-observable” cruise missiles minus payloads.

An exercise of this size would normally take a year or more to plan, but this came together in a matter of months, the official said, not because of an imminent threat but a window of availability.