Israel, US stage joint aerial drill

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The air forces of Israel and the United States launched on Sunday a joint drill, the Israeli military said in a statement.

An undisclosed number of F-15 and F-16 fighter jets from both sides are participating in the training event, code named Juniper Stallion 13, held at the Israel Air Force(IAF)'s Uvda Base in the southern Negev Desert, during which pilots will practice air-to- air combat maneuvers, mid-air refueling, bombing runs and other missions.

The two-week drill comes at a time of heightened tensions along Israel's frontiers with Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, but the Israel Defense Forces(IDF) emphasized it is part of regularly scheduled training between the two nations.

"The combined exercise is designed to improve the interoperability and cooperation between the Israeli and U.S. air forces, and has been planned for more than a year," an IDF spokesman told Xinhua.

Military relations between Israel and the U.S. have been consistently close, reflecting common security interests in the Middle East. Joint exercises are regularly held to maintain those ties, develop teamwork and share information on new weapon systems and tactics. Israel also periodically holds aerial and naval drills with NATO members - either at home or abroad.

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