The UK, US and Israel have conducted the first ever F-35 joint exercise over the skies of the Middle East.

The IAF, USAF and Royal Air Force drill nicknamed “Tri-Lightning” was a “demonstration of the interoperability between the US, UK, and Israel.”

This marked a significant show of military cooperation between the three countries – the first to employ the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) in combat.

Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-35I Adirs from Nevatim Air Base in Israel, UK Royal Air Force (RAF)/Royal Navy (RN) F-35B Lightnings from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus, and US Air Force (USAF) F-35A Lightning IIs from Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates performed a series of simulated air-defence operations over one day.

USAF reported, “This exercise is a demonstration of the interoperability between the US, UK, and Israel using the F-35A, F-35B, and F-35I, respectively”. The F-35s played the role of friendly, or ‘blue’, forces against other aircraft types playing the role of enemy, or ‘red’, forces.

On Tuesday, the United Kingdom said its F-35 fighter jets had also conducted their first missions, flying sorties over Iraq and Syria as part of the fight against the Islamic State terror group.

As one of the world’s leading air forces, the IAF regularly leads and participates in international exercises, including its flagship biennial Blue Flag drill.

Israel was also invited to take part in the British Royal Air Force’s Cobra Warrior exercise planned for September 2019.

“International cooperation between Israel, the US and Britain strengthens our joint interests and our new, exclusive capabilities in the Middle East,” said IAF Chief of Air Staff Brig. Gen. Amnon Ein-Dar.

The Israel Defense Forces received the fifth-generation stealth fighter from the United States’ Lockheed Martin defense contractor in late 2016 and declared it operational roughly a year later. In 2018, the Israeli Air Force revealed it had used the F-35 operationally — including at least once over Lebanon — making it the first military in the world to do so.

“The first international air exercise involving Israeli F-35 planes alongside foreign F-35 planes was held yesterday. The exercise was held over the Mediterranean Sea and simulated survival scenarios and defense against varying threats from advanced aircraft, including the F-35 plane,” the IDF said in a statement.

The Israeli Air Force said it planned to hold additional international exercises with the stealth fighter jets in the future in order to “advance its capabilities.”

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