Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Israel on Sunday, where he observed Austere Challenge 12, the largest-ever military exercise between the two countries.
Dempsey met with Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the beginning of his visit. Following the meeting on Sunday evening, Barak remarked that “the security relationship between the U.S. and Israel is deeper and stronger than it has been in recent years.”
On Monday, Dempsey will also meet his Israeli counterpart, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz, and with President Shimon Peres.
Among other things, Austere Challenge 12 involves the deployment of Patriot missile batteries and other air defense systems, including surface-to-air missiles deployed on naval ships. The exercise is part of a long-term agreement between EUCOM (the United States European Command) and the IDF that calls for cooperative exercises on an annual basis.
The exercise, which started last week, continues for three weeks, during which cutting-edge technology will be tested for the first time. Both armies will review and examine the Iron Dome batteries and the new Magic Wand (David’s Sling) anti-missile system in real-time.
Leaders of the IDF and the U.S. Armed Forces held a press conference at week's end in honor of the drill, which they termed “a great success.”
Dempsey’s visit marks the second time he has visited Israel in 2012. His last visit was in January, during which he met Barak, Gantz and Peres. At that time Dempsey stressed the “mutual commitment” between Israel and the U.S.