The Israel Defense Forces and U.S. Central Command on Monday announced the launch of a large-scale drill, which a senior U.S. defense official called “the most significant exercise between the United States and Israel to date.”
The unprecedented drill, dubbed “Juniper Oak 2023,” involves over 140 aircraft, 12 naval vessels, and artillery systems from both countries and will last until Friday, CENTCOM said in a statement.
According to the unnamed defense official, the drill is meant to show adversaries like Iran that Washington is not distracted enough by the war in Ukraine and the threat from China to mobilize a large military force.
It is the third joint exercise of its kind within the space of a year simulating an attack on Iran involving intelligence sharing and a multipronged offence.
It is of particular significance considering that only two years ago, Israel was not covered by CENTCOM, and instead was included in EUCOM (European Command). The move was orchestrated by the Trump administration but was finally carried out in January 2021.
The Pentagon at the time called the move a “sign of the changing political environment in the Middle East” and pro-Israel groups hailed it as a sign of deepening military ties between the two nations. As a result of the transfer to CENTCOM, the Biden administration subsequently elevated Israel to “full military partner.”
CENTCOM in a statement said of this week’s drill that it “strengthens collective U.S.-Israeli readiness and improves the interoperability of both forces, thereby contributing to regional stability.”
“Exercises like Juniper Oak show that interoperability and integration represent the improved security in the region.”
“The exercise will test joint Israeli-US readiness and improve the operational relationship between the two armies,” the IDF said in a statement.