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.
The US official stressed that this exercise was not intended to be a simulation of an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, but the official acknowledged that Iran would be watching and taking note.
“If there’s a sense that the Americans are distracted, or the Americans are going away from the Middle East, and therefore they have free rein for their malign activities. I think this will disabuse them,” the official said.
“I suspect Iran will take note of that, but not only Iran, China will take note of that, Russia will take note of that, other folks will take note of it.”
The live-fire exercise, named Juniper Oak, will include 100 US aircraft with fighters, bombers and refueling aircraft flying alongside 42 Israeli aircraft. The USS George H. W. Bush carrier strike group will also take part in the exercise, which will cover all the domains of warfare to include space and electronic warfare.
“We can’t really find another (exercise) that even kind of comes close,” said a senior US defense official. Nearly 6,500 US personnel will participate in the exercise, as well as more than 1,100 Israeli personnel, the official said.