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This is the Israeli version of the dogfighting wargame Red Flag

A number of elite units from multiple nations are gathered to train at an air base, with over 100 aircraft sitting on the flightline for a two-week exercise.


Sounds like just another Red Flag, right? Wrong.

This exercise is a "flag," but it's not at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Instead, it's taking place in Israel. And appropriately enough, it's known as Blue Flag.

F-16I Sufa (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

While several Red Flag exercises are held each year in the U.S., the Israelis hold one Blue Flag every two years. In 2013, four countries took part. This year, according to DefenseNews.com, seven will be in the skies over the Middle East nation: the United States, France, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, and of course, Israel.

One big difference between Red Flag and Blue Flag is the fact that Blue Flag doesn't have a lot of head-to-head action between the participants. The exercise usually puts the 100 or so planes in as a multi-national "Blue Force" dealing with an external "Red Force."

(U. S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael R. Holzworth)

Week one of Blue Flag is spent getting familiar with the area. The second week is the actual combat exercise, usually involving the Red Force trying to hit friendly targets. The Blue Force tries to stop them, in a variety of missions, both air-to-air, and air-to-surface.

Past Blue Flags have drawn rave reviews from the United States Air Force.

Photo: US Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kevin J. Gruenwald

"The Israelis provided an excellent training environment, which offered us the opportunity to learn from each other and to take advantage of good airspace, surface threat replicators, and challenging scenarios," said Lt. Col. John Orchard after Blue Flag 2013 in an Air Force release. "It was a real pleasure integrating with our Israeli, Italian and Greek partners who all offer unique tactical, strategic and cultural perspectives."

While the nightlife may be very different from the Vegas strip — and it'll be a little harder to find a good ham sandwich between sorties — Blue Flag 2017 promises to be very interesting for the participants.