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US, Israeli F-35s team up for Enduring Lightning III exercise

F-35 fighters from the U.S. and Israeli air forces gathered over Israel on Monday for the third joint training exercise involving the two nations’ advanced fifth-generation aircraft.

As part of the Enduring Lightning III exercise, pilots trained on how to strike a simulated target area, while fending off adversaries in the air and on the ground, U.S. Air Forces Central Command said in a Wednesday release.

The exercise involved American F-35As from the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing’s 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron — also known as the Black Widows and located at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates — and Israel’s F-35I fighter, which it calls the Adir, from their 116th Squadron, the release said.

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs and Israeli Air Force F-35I Adirs fly in formation during exercise Enduring Lightning III over Israel, Oct. 12, 2020. (Senior Airman Duncan Bevan/Air Force)
U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs and Israeli Air Force F-35I Adirs fly in formation during exercise Enduring Lightning III over Israel, Oct. 12, 2020. (Senior Airman Duncan Bevan/Air Force)

The 340th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and the 908th Expeditionary Air Refueling Squadron at Al Dhafra also provided aerial refueling support with a KC-10 Extender and KC-135 Stratotanker.

Israel’s 122nd Squadron also provided air traffic control support with its Nachshon aircraft, and its 115th Squadron provided F-16I fighters to serve as simulated adversary forces.

“The Enduring Lightning exercises provide invaluable opportunities for both AFCENT and our Israeli partners to improve readiness and strengthen relationships,” AFCENT commander Lt. Gen. Greg Guillot said in the release. “This partnership has been built on trust and developed over decades of mutual cooperation, demonstrating an ongoing commitment to regional stability.”

U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs and Israeli Air Force F-35I Adirs fly alongside a U.S. Air Force KC-135R Stratotanker during exercise Enduring Lightning III over Israel, Oct. 12, 2020. (Senior Airman Duncan Bevan/Air Force)
U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning IIs and Israeli Air Force F-35I Adirs fly alongside a U.S. Air Force KC-135R Stratotanker during exercise Enduring Lightning III over Israel, Oct. 12, 2020. (Senior Airman Duncan Bevan/Air Force)

421st commander Lt. Col. Stephen Redmond said in the release that the chance to train alongside their Israeli counterparts was an “immeasurable experience.”

“This is the second time this deployment that the Black Widows have had the opportunity to fly, train and learn with [Israel’s] F-35Is,” Redmond said. “Not only do our young officers get an opportunity to be a mission commander of a multi-national exercise, but most importantly, they build relationships with Israeli fighter pilots that they will keep for the duration of their careers.”

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