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      IAF Pilots Drill Over Italy

      An IAF delegation has returned from Sardinia where it conducted joint exercises with the Italian Air Force.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 11/2/2011, 7:34 PM

      The Israeli Air Force may have set Lucius Flavius Silva - commander of the Roman X Legion Fretensis at Masada - rolling in his grave last week as it roared through the Italian skies.

      The IAF delegation returned from Sardinia on Wednesday after a week-long joint training exercise with the Italian Air Force.

      The exercises, planned months ago, concluded amid a storm of speculation from Israel's media that leaders in Jerusalem are planning a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

      The delegation included pilots from the "Knights of the North" and "First Jet" squadrons operating the F-16C air superiority fighter, along with pilots from the "Valley" squadron, who operate the F-16D.

      The fighter pilots were accompanied by a crew from the "Dakota" control squadron, flying a Gulfstream 5 G-550 radar plane.

      The Italian Air Force used its advanced "Eurofighter Typhoon" fighters during the exercise, in which two Israeli pilots were granted exclusive backseat rides.

      "It was extremely impressive," said Major Danny, operating commander of the delegation. "The plane has immense capabilities and it was exciting to be able to see up close."

      The stated goals of the joint exercises were to strengthen ties with the Italian Air Force, learn from NATO's combat doctrine, and practice combat abilities in unknown, vast lands and to leave a positive impression for both sides.

      Israel has conducted numerous joint air force exercises with NATO members. Israel, while not a NATO member itself, is expected to open a liaison office with the alliance in the near future.

      "The experience cooperating with the Italian Air Force was a positive one in every way", said Lieutenant Colonel Yiftah, commander of the delegation. "We had a good understanding on the operational situation while flying together, that quickly developed into a trusting, friendly relationship."

      "Beyond that, we had the great opportunity to fly in extremely vast areas, even larger than Israel in its entirety, practicing very complex outlines with many planes that have abilities that are unknown to us."