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      IAF to Host Greeks, Italians for Joint Exercises

      Israeli Air Force set to train in Israel with Italian and Greek air forces within the next month.
      By Elad Benari
      First Publish: 11/3/2011, 10:00 PM

      F-15 Fighter Jet
      F-15 Fighter Jet
      Flash 90

      The Israeli Air Force will host Greece’s Air Force for joint exercises in two weeks’ time.

      Last year, the IAF was in Greece for joint exercises, and a security official said on Thursday that the reciprocal visit from Greece is very significant.

      In addition the IAF will host the Italian Air Force next month for a training session at the Uvda Airport in the Negev. This will be the second time that the Italian air force will train in Israel.

      “The Israeli Air Force sees the Italian and Greek air forces’ visits as a step up in strategic cooperation,” a security source said on Thursday.

      The announcement on the joint exercises with Italy and Greece came one day after an IAF delegation returned from Sardinia following a week-long joint training exercise with the Italian Air Force.

      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.

      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 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. A similar exercise took place last year.

      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.