Of the 142 aircraft participating, 100 are American, including everything from four US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers to four US Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.
On Jan. 23, 2023 US Central Command (CENTCOM) and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) began Exercise Juniper Oak 23-2 in Israel and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
This exercise strengthens collective US-Israeli readiness and improves the interoperability of both forces, thereby contributing to regional stability, a US Navy news release says. Exercises like Juniper Oak show that interoperability and integration represent the improved security in the region.
“Consistent with CENTCOM’s strategic approach of People, Partners, and Innovation, we are committed to strengthening military-to-military relations throughout the region,” said Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of CENTCOM. “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.”
The exercise will run from Jan. 23-27 and involve 180,000 pounds of live munitions and 6,400 US personnel, 450 of which will be on the ground in Israel.
Juniper Oak 23.2 integrates many military assets and missions, including:
- Strategic bombers
- Fighter aircraft
- Rescue aircraft
- Refueling aircraft
- Naval forces
- Ground long-range precision fires
- Air long-range precision fires
- Rotary wing aircraft
- Space Force assets
- Special Operations Forces
- Infantry forces Missions
- US and Israeli command and control
- Air operations in maritime surface warfare
- Combat search and rescue
- Electronic attack
- Suppression of enemy air defenses
- Strike coordination and reconnaissance
- Air interdiction
According to Air & Space Forces Magazine, of the 142 aircraft participating, 100 are American, including everything from four US Air Force B-52 Stratofortress strategic bombers to four US Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. The US’s robust air presence also includes specialized airborne early warning planes, surveillance assets, and electronic warfare aircraft, such as an Air Force RC-135 reconnaissance plane, US Navy E-2D Hawkeyes, and EA-18 Growlers. The George H.W. Bush carrier strike group will support six EA-18s, five E-2Ds, and 45 F/A-18s. The US Air Force is also sending four fifth-generation F-35s, which are not normally based in the region, joining six F-35s from the IDF.
In addition to its stealth fighters, the US Air Force is sending four F-15E Strike Eagles and four F-16 Fighting Falcons, as well as Air Force Special Operations components such as an AC-130 gunship. Israel has 32 fixed-wing fighters participating.
The 100 American aircraft include:
- Four B-52s
- Four F-35s
- Two MQ-9s
- One HC-130
- Two HH-68s
- Four AH-64s
- One AC-130
- Four F-15Es
- Four F-16s
- 45 F/A 18s
- One RC-135
- Six EA-18s
- Two KC-46s
- Five E-2Ds
- 15 MH-60s
Israeli forces will fly 42 aircraft:
- Six F-35s
- 18 F-16s
- Eight F-15s
- One CH-53
- One UH-60
- One Gulfstream G550
- Two 707s
- Two unmanned aerial vehicles
- Two AH-64s
The Space Force will also be represented in Juniper Oak, with low Earth and medium Earth orbit satellites under the control of the command’s new space component, SPACECENT.
“These kinds of exercises – which CENTCOM routinely conducts with our partners – develop interoperability between military forces, increase military capabilities, and are important to the security and stability of the region. The lessons learned during these exercises are exportable to our partners across the region,” Kurilla concluded.
Four HIMARS launchers will provide long-range precision fire from the ground.
According to Air & Space Forces Magazine, the exercise takes place amid continued tensions in the region. Iranian-backed militias have launched drone and missile attacks against US forces and allies—a drone attack took place on Jan. 20 against the Al Tanf Garrison in southeast Syria, though the US has not formally ascribed responsibility.
Iran has also alarmed the US by providing drones to Russia for Moscow’s attacks in Ukraine and has exceeded the limits of the 2015 accord limiting its nuclear program. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan traveled to Israel from Jan. 18 to Jan. 20 to discuss a range of issues, including Iran’s continued threats in the region, according to the White House.
Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Christian Sullivan / U.S. Air Force