Military Aviation

Israel withdraws F-15s from Red Flag Alaska amid growing tensions with Iran and Syria

“Israel’s first participation in the Red Flag exercise in Alaska will take place as planned in May. According with assessments of the situation the air force has decided to tailor the participation of its planes,” IDF spokesperson

Israel has decided that its F-15 fighters will not be heading to Alaska for this year’s Red Flag exercise. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) was supposed to be making its debut in the Alaskan edition of the annual air combat exercise. The service may send some representatives instead.

As reported by Haaretz, recent tensions between Israel, Iran and Syria were cited as the reason to keep the planes at home.

Last week Russia and Syria claimed that Israel had attacked Syrian T4 air base near Homs. The Russian army statement said that two IAF fighter bombers had fired eight missiles against the base from Lebanese air space. Russia’s foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said that the attack on the Syrian base escalates tension in the region. Israel did not respond to this claim.

The Wall Street Journal said that Israel attacked T4 airbase in order to keep a newly-arrived Iranian Tor air defense missile system from being activated. The plan on the airstrike was shared with the Americans way in advance, two people with knowledge told the news outlet.

Noteworthy, after the attack an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) official said to the New York Times that “It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets — both facilities and people.” However the IDF spokesperson subsequently told the New York Times that the official did not speak on its behalf.

About Red Flag, IDF spokesperson said: “Israel’s first participation in the Red Flag exercise in Alaska will take place as planned in May. According with assessments of the situation the air force has decided to tailor the participation of its planes.”

As we have previously reported an IAF F-16I Sufa was shot down by  a Syrian S-200 (NATO: SA-5 Gammon)  on Feb. 10, 2018. According IDF the incident came after an Israeli AH-64 Apache combat helicopter successfully intercepted an Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) launched from Syria that infiltrated the country’s airspace.

IAF F-16Is were scrambled to attack 12 Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria in retaliation. On their way back to base, the Israeli combat planes came under Syrian anti-aircraft fire, with one missile exploding near one of the aircraft and bringing it down.

IDF claimed that the crash happened as Israeli forces attacked 12 targets in Syria, including three aerial defense batteries and four targets described as Iranian. According the IDF statement the four Iranian targets as “part of Iran’s military establishment in Syria. The IDF will act determinately against such severe violations of Israeli sovereignty by Iran and Syria and will continue to act as necessary.”

Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew / U.S. Air Force

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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