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Israeli Air Force uses Cyprus exercise to simulate war with Hizbullah

An F-16C from Israel's 101 Squadron at Paphos International Airport during Exercise ‘Blue Sun'. (Israeli Air Force)

The Israeli Air Force (IAF) used an exercise in Cyprus in May to simulate combat against Lebanese militant group Hizbullah, as well as operating F-16 fighter aircraft from an unfamiliar airfield.

Held with the Cypriot National Guard from 7 to 11 May, Exercise ‘Blue Sun' involved Super King Air intelligence-gathering aircraft from the IAF's 100 Squadron, F-16s from two different squadrons, and Apache attack helicopters deploying to Cyprus, as well as visits by C-130 transports carrying members of the elite Maglan unit, a part of the Israel Defense Forces' (IDF's) Commando Brigade.

First Lieutenant Y (name withheld), a 100 Squadron pilot who headed the exercise, told Janes that Cyprus's forested mountains provided unfamiliar terrain that served as a good backdrop for an exercise simulating conflict in a “northern arena” – a term the IDF uses to describe Lebanon.

“When the IDF operates in an area it does not know, in such a co-ordinated manner, this strengthens our abilities ahead of the next war,” he said. The unfamiliar terrain created new challenges for aircrews, he added, although he noted that the IAF is highly familiar with Lebanese terrain from visual intelligence. The exercise involved scenarios in which aircrews were faced with multiple surprises and faced uncertainty and failure, 1st Lt Y said.

The runway at Paphos International Airport was improved so it could be used by the Israeli F-16s, although pilots were still challenged by the lack of arrestor gear to slow their aircraft after landing, said 1st Lt Y.

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