Report: Israeli Fighter Jets Hold Massive Drill Aimed at Tehran

An Israeli airforce F15 plane. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

Israeli fighter jets took part in a large drill over the Mediterranean that included practicing mid-air refueling, according to a report in a Saudi-run website Thursday.

The unverified report in London-based Elaph described air maneuvers on Thursday by “an unusually large” contingent of F-15, F-16 and F-35 fighter craft, as well as Boeing mid-air refueling tankers, in what would likely be seen as a warning beacon to Iran amid Israeli threats to take military action in order to stop Tehran’s nuclear program.

Citing an unnamed Arab source, Elaph reported that the “wide” maneuver took place over the Mediterranean. Israeli defense officials, who rarely comment on foreign reports, could not be immediately reached.

The use of Israel’s aging mid-air refueling fleet would be the strongest indication that Israel is planning for an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, or would like to project to Tehran and the rest of the world that it is preparing.

Israel rarely advertises its use of the refueling craft in drills publicly, but they are occasionally used for exhibitions.

In 2013 mid-air refueling tankers were used publicly as part of a large drill involving nearly all air squadrons practicing for an attack on a long-range target, against a similar backdrop of tensions with Iran.

That time, the IDF uploaded videos online showing F-15 and F-16 fighter jets refueling mid-air over the water, following the exercise, which reportedly took place near Greece.

According to reports at the time, the clips marked the first time the IDF had ever published videos showing its mid-air refueling capabilities.

Because of the distance, carrying out an airstrike inside Iran and having enough fuel for the return trip would require Israeli planes to refuel in the sky or find a friendly airbase to land at.

A report in The New York Times last month, however, indicated that Israeli plans for a possible strike on Iran had been set back by delays in the delivery of eight new Boeing KC-47 supertankers, with consignment expected to take until late 2024 at least.

Current and former officials quoted in the report said Israeli military planners believe that any strike on Iran will likely require multiple sorties against some sites, such as the underground Fordo uranium enrichment facility, necessitating speedy refueling.

The $2.4 billion deal for the eight planes was signed in March.


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