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The US and Israel have just started their biggest joint military drill to test missile defenses. The troops will conduct war games over the next 3-weeks.
Shlomit Rodnitzky, Patriot Missile Commander, Israeli Army said, "Israeli readiness is always high and of course when you do a joint exercise like this you feel much more safer in your readiness, but we are ready all the time. That’s our mission."
A thousand U.S. soldiers have set up missile batteries on Israeli soil for this exercise, while 2,000 more are poised offshore to defend against simulated missile attacks via computer.
It’s an air artillery "command and coordination" drill to intercept missiles with their Israeli counterparts.
Although U.S.-Israel relations are strained of late over how best to handle Iran, here on the ground cooperation is smooth.
Captain Mary Thornton, Patriot Missile Commander, US Military said, "I definitely feel like we are partners and we are having a ball. My soldiers and I have loved this experience being here on this sight and we continue to look forward to working with them each day that we get to work with our Israeli partners."
Both Israeli and U.S. military officials deny the drill is linked to current events in Syria or Lebanon, saying it has been planned for two years.
Stephanie Freid, Tel Aviv said, "Some of the defense systems being tested during this drill include the arrow system and the patriot system which is right behind me, you see the patriot. Those intercept longer range missiles. A short range rocket system that’s also being tested is the ’iron dome.’ It’s also getting a real-time workout while this drill is going on."
The "Iron Dome" has intercepted more than a half-dozen rockets in the past 24 hours as Gaza-Israel violence flares. Israel benefits from advanced U.S. weapons technology and know-how during this drill-while U.S. soldiers gain insight from their colleagues’ "real world" experience.
Lieutenant Jon Peterson, US military said, "As air defenders it’s a unique opportunity for us to come down here and train and train with a country that has so many air defense systems and is so air defense oriented because they have been under rocket attacks in the past."