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US and Israel to Kick Off Biggest Joint Military Drill Ever

'Exercise Austere Challenge' not about sending Iran a message, says US general

Common Dreams staff

The USS Hopper (DDG 70) equipped with the Aegis integrated weapons system launching a missile. (Dept. of Defense photo)

U.S. and Israeli forces are set to kick off their biggest joint military exercise to date, U.S. and Israeli officials announced Wednesday

The three-week exercise dubbed "Exercise Austere Challenge," originally scheduled for spring, involves 3,500 Americans and 1,000 Israeli forces and will begin in Israel next week.

The weapons used will be the U.S. Patriot anti-missile systems and an Aegis ballistic missile defense ship while Israel tests its Iron Dome and Arrow 2 systems.

Israel and the U.S. denied that the joint exercises were targeted at sending any specific country a message.

“This exercise is purely about improving our combined U.S.-Israeli capabilities,” U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig A. Franklin, the senior U.S. commander for the exercise, told reporters on Wednesday. “It’s about military teamwork. It is not related to national elections nor any perceived tensions in the Middle East. We are military professionals coming together to train for a defensive mission.”

Danger Room's Spencer Ackerman writes that the exercise is to "to practice shooting Iranian missiles out of the sky. Only neither country wants to say the exercise is about either Iran or presidential politics. "

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