US & Israel Scale Down Air Exercise over Russian Electronic Surveillance from Syria

Senior American and Israeli officers tried to play down the unusual curtailment of the Juniper Cobra 16 air defense exercise, which the two armies conduct every two years, for improving their cooperation and testing Israel’s air defense preparedness.
The announcement on Feb. 6 of the forthcoming drill was conspicuously terse and short on detail. It disclosed only that the maneuvers for improving air combat accuracy would be simulated and there would be no live drills. The exercise is to be run from US command centers far from Israel and its Mediterranean assets and will be the smallest in scope in 14 years.
THAAD and Patriot PAC-3 missile batteries will not participate and, indeed, America will not be contributing any of its ground-to-air missile systems.
Two recent events caused the scaling back of this regular biannual event:
1. Russia’s positioning of advanced electronic warfare systems on Syrian mountain peaks just kilometers from Israel’s northern and northeastern borders, whence they can intercept almost any electromagnetic signal carried on radio waves.
(See a separate article in this issue on the arrival in Syria this week of the Tu-214R surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft.)
Had the Israeli Air force and the US European Command followed the exercise’s usual format, their respective strengths and weaknesses, operational systems and other secrets would have been laid bare before the Russian military eyes and ears, which have been energetically monitoring every move in Israel, day and night, for the last four months.
To escape interception by this curious neighbor to the north, a senior military source was quoted as reporting that some of the simulations would be relayed through above-ground or underground fiber-optic cable.
2. In the space of a week, the Obama administration twice ordered cutbacks in US support for Israel and slashed Washington’s diplomatic, military and economic commitments to Jerusalem.
As debkafile reported on Feb. 10, the Pentagon sliced 47 percent off its 2017 budget appropriation for cooperation with the Israeli defense industry, including the joint development of missile defense systems, such as David’s Sling and Iron Dome.
The second order was not explicit but executed de facto by reducing the scope of the joint US-Israel exercise this year. This loosening of the reciprocal ties traditionally binding the Israeli and US military and defense industries, essential components of Israel’s security and economic wellbeing, will have an adverse impact on both.
Meanwhile, DEBKA Weekly’s sources report the arrival in Israel of hundreds of US troops for taking part in Juniper Cobra 16. Most are accommodated at the Hatzor air force base, near the southern port of Ashdod, where the exercise’s subcommand center is to be established.
The drill is to be staged simultaneously on several different fronts according to various scenarios
The entire family of Israel’s air defense systems will take part: the radar of the “Arrow 2” ballistic exo-atmospheric interceptor; Patriot PAC-2 missile batteries; the Iron Dome medium-range rocket interceptor; elements of the David’s Sling mid-range missile batteries, which are still not operational, and the “Green Pine” radar system.
The US military are deploying the AN/TPY-2 radar system, which is operated by US troops on Mt. Keren in the Negev Desert and can detect missiles and aircraft up to 2,000 kilometers away.
They will also test the US SM-3 missile (RIM-161 Standard Missile 3) against the enemy’s short to medium range missiles, Aegis radar systems capable of identifying targets up to 500 kilometers away, and the Patriot PAC-3 system.

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