The first U.S. military forces participating in the maneuvers antiaircraft Austere Challenge 12 (AC12), the biggest made jointly between EU and Israel, began arriving in this country, today reported the respective hosts.
“The first forces arrived in recent days and the rest, including myself, will do next week,” he said in a conference call with reporters Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the U.S. Air Force in Europe.
The AC12 is larger maneuvers that both countries have called so far and will include the participation of at least 3,500 U.S. soldiers and a thousand Israelis.
Franklin explained that Israel will reach more than 1,000 soldiers and officers, many fewer than the 5,000 expected in principle, and that the remaining part of his forces from bases in Europe and warships in the Mediterranean.
Some commentators have linked these maneuvers with a possible preparation for a war with Iran, because the exercises simulate operations of defense against missile attacks from short, medium and long range.
The U.S. military said the maneuvers “have nothing to do with real events in the world” and who exercise “simulated scenarios.”
Asked about this interpretation, Israeli Brigadier General Nitzan Nuriel said their message maneuvers is that the two countries “work together” and that “together we can achieve more.”
“From there each draw their own conclusion,” he said.
Initially planned for this spring, the exercises were postponed by the tension that erupted between Iran and Israel over Tehran’s nuclear program.
This argument was also put forward by Israeli defense sources to keep secret the date and place of the exercises.
The two senior officers merely confirmed that “last a little over three weeks,” and that will take place between late October and early November.