Israeli F-15 fighter jets escorted an American heavy bomber through the region as it made its way to the Persian Gulf on last Saturday, October 30, in a tacit threat and provocation towards Iran. “The flight represents the continued operational cooperation with American forces in the region,” an Israeli military spokesperson said.
The escort mission came as Israeli and American officials have increasingly threatened to act against Tehran’s nuclear program, while Iran has stalled indirect negotiations with the United States in Vienna regarding a mutual return to the 2015 nuclear deal.
An Israeli F-15 fighter jet (below) escorts an American B-1B heavy bomber through Israeli airspace, October 30, 2021. (Photo: Israeli military)
The Israeli military shared photographs and video footage of the flight, showing Israeli F-15 jets flying alongside an American B-1B bomber which is capable of carrying heavy bunker-buster bombs that would be needed for a strike on Iran’s largely underground nuclear facilities.
Israeli officials have explicitly threatened a military strike on Iran’s nuclear program, while Americans have discussed the matter more circumspectly, referring to “other options” beyond diplomatic negotiations in order to neutralize Tehran’s nuclear industry.
At the beginning of this year, Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi announced he had instructed the military to begin drawing up fresh attack plans for such an operation, and last week the government reportedly allocated billions of shekels toward making those plans viable. The Israeli Air Force plans to begin simulating strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities in the coming months and that some aspects of its strike plan, which is still in the “draft stage,” could be ready within a short period of time, while others would take more than a year to be fully operational.
Israel’s far-right and settler Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said that “a confrontation with Iran is only a matter of time, and not a long time.” In an interview Liberman stressed that “no diplomatic move or agreement will stop the Iranian nuclear program.” The finance minister referred to the defense budget approved by the government. “They were surprised why such a large budget was approved for the Israel’s military. The funding has been augmented to finance the purchase of advanced systems. After three years of discussion, the new budget also includes funding for the civilian protection program in the north.”
More on the 8-State Blue Flag Military Exercises
A German military photographer posted on social media last Friday, October 29, two pictures of Jordanian fighter jets taking part in this month’s massive US-sponsored Blue Flag aerial exercise, apparently inadvertently revealing that the kingdom had participated in the Israeli-hosted drill. Until then, Jordan’s participation in the two-week-long exercise had officially been kept a secret.
In one photo, a Jordanian F-16 fighter jet can be seen taxiing along a runway in the Israeli Air Force’s Ovda base, just north of Eilat, while a French Rafale jet flies above it. In the second photograph, a Jordanian F-16 could be seen taking off from the same base.
The Blue Flag exercise began on October 14 and concluded after two weeks. Eight foreign militaries participated in the drill, which Israeli Air Force officials said was the largest and most advanced aerial exercise that has been held in Israel to date. In addition, representatives from a number of other foreign countries, including the commander of the United Arab Emirates air force, came to Israel to observe the drill.
On Monday, November 8, hundreds of U.S. Marines will be participating in an extended joint exercise with Israeli commandos in Eilat in what the Israeli military and politicians have framed as an effort to strengthen military preparedness ahead of a possible confrontation with Iran.
Civil Defense Drills Begin in Preparation for Large-Scale War
Israel’s Home Front Command and National Emergency Authority (RAHEL) held a week-long drill starting on Sunday October 31, simulating a large-scale war in which civilians are evacuated from northern border communities and security agencies contend with massive rocket barrages. In the simulation, a security incident caused clashes in Israeli cities, blockage of main transportation arteries, demonstrations and protests and attempts to impede the military ability to deploy to its required arenas.
According to a 2020 State Comptroller report, millions of Israelis do not have basic defensive facilities near their homes, and plans for population evacuation, should a war break out, have yet to be completed. The report stated that some public and shared private shelters in communities along the border are expected to be too overcrowded during times of emergencies to “allow for prolonged stays.”