When six Israeli Air Force F-16C/D Barak multirole fighters, accompanied by support aircraft landed at Tactical Air Force Wing 31 “Boelcke” in Nörvenich, Germany, this week, it was a historic moment for both countries, Janes reported.
Exercise “Blue Wings 2020” will see the IAF F-16s train alongside Luftwaffe Eurofighters over the coming two weeks, for the first ever bilateral training exercise between the two air forces in Germany.
At the invitation of the Inspector of the German Air Force, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz, both air forces will practice joint air operations during the first week, Janes reported.
In the second week, the Israeli partners take part in the Multinational Air Group Days (MAG Days), which take place several times a year.
General Gerhatz’s IAF counterpart, Major General Amikam Norkin, accompanied the arrival of his aircraft and personnel in German airspace aboard a VIP Gulfstream G550, Janes reported.
The moment that the Luftwaffe commander welcomed the Israeli Air Force into German airspace was captured in a video, Fox News reported.
“On behalf of the German air force, it is an honor for me to welcome the Israeli air force entering German airspace for the first time in history,” Gerhatz can be heard saying in the video.
The Israeli commander responded by saying he was “proud” to lead his country’s first deployment into Germany.
“It’s a testimony to our strong ties and mutual commitment,” he said. “I salute you and your air force.”
As part of the drill, the IAF participated in a flyover over the Dachau Concentration Camp, in memory of the victims of the Holocaust, and over the Bavarian city of Fürstenfeldbruck near Munich, in memory of the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches who were killed by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Olympics, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Last week, in the run-up to the exercise, Norkin met with Holocaust survivors and was given a belt belonging to Pesach Smieleg, who survived Dachau.
Norkin carried the belt onboard during the flyover as “a symbol of remembrance and resurrection.”
“Many IAF fighters are grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and in the ’60s and ’70s of the last century, half of the IAF’s pilots were Holocaust survivors themselves — and yet we believe this is the right thing to do,” he said at a ceremony last week and reported by the New York Times.
According to The Drive, as well as the six “Barak” fighter jets — three each from the Hatzor-based 101 and 105 Squadrons, known as “The First Fighter” and “The Scorpion,” respectively — the IAF has sent two Boeing 707 “Re’em” tanker aircraft and two special-missions Gulfstream G550 aircraft to Nörvenich.
One of the G550s is a “Nachshon-Eitam” equipped with a Conformal Airborne Early Warning (CAEW) system — comprising conformal phased-array radars on both sides of the forward fuselage — while the other is a “Nachshon-Shavit” outfitted for signals intelligence (SIGINT).
Both G550s are operated by 122 Squadron at Nevatim Air Base. All these aircraft are accompanied by up to 180 personnel.
“The exercise is being held to continue enhancing the IAF’s capabilities, maintain its readiness to face various scenarios, and to continue strengthening its bonds and cooperation with allied air forces,” the IAF explained in a press release.
The IAF contingent will test their skills in dogfights, ground-to-air combat, defeating surface-to-air missile threats, and “other combat scenarios in enemy territory.”