UVDA AIR FORCE BASE, Israel -- After two weeks of flying missions, Blue Flag 2017, the third iteration of the Israeli-hosted exercise, wrapped up at Uvda Air Force Base, Israel, Nov. 16.
Participants from seven nations hosted by Israel, including approximately 200 U.S. Air Force Airmen and seven F-16C Fighting Falcons from 31st Fighter Wing in Aviano, Italy, are now headed back to their home stations.
The multinational live-fly exercise, the largest of its kind hosted by Israel, was aimed at strengthening military partnerships and improving strategic communication between the participating nations.
"Anytime we participate in a multinational exercise with many different partners and players, it builds our interoperability," said Brig. Gen. Lance Landrun, 31st Fighter Wing commander. "It builds our ability to communicate, it builds our common understanding of culture and it builds our common understanding of capabilities and tactics."
This strengthening of partner forces didn't just happen in the air--it also happened on the ground and in the planning stages of each sortie.
"What we went for when we designed this exercise was that we wanted to find the common ground for each air force," said an Israeli air force pilot, "which means that when we planned our missions we did it together, and everyone shared their way of how they fight each mission."
This year, Blue Flag participants were able to gain even more insight into how partner nations operate as several new countries, including India, joined the exercise for the first time.
"As a professional force it is our duty to keep improving ourselves," said an Indian air force spokesperson. "Here we saw a lot of countries that have varied combat experience, especially Israel, from which we could learn."
"This is a place we could all learn from each other’s combat experiences," he continued. "We are friends from different countries, learning to operate together."
The U.S. Air Force regularly participates in multinational training exercises and has participated in all three iterations of Israel's Blue Flag. Exercises like this further strengthen the relationships between attending nations and also promote regional peace and security.