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EUCOM, Israelis complete Austere Challenge exercise

STUTTGART, Germany — U.S. European Command and the Israel Defense Forces have concluded their large-scale air defense exercise, which included live fire scenarios designed to bolster the interoperability of the two nation’s militaries.

Austere Challenge 2012, which was two years in the making, started in late October. The exercise was part of a long-standing strategic agreement between EUCOM and the IDF and not directly related to any current tensions in the region, according to EUCOM.

Still, the exercise, which involved 3,500 U.S. personnel, came as concerns continue to mount over Iran’s nuclear program.

Numerous senior U.S. military officials were observers during the exercise in Israel, where about 1,000 U.S. personnel were deployed for the drill.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, Third Air Force commander and commander of Joint Defense Forces-Israel during the exercise, said the two militaries are better prepared to defend Israel if called upon to do so.

“We made great strides in improving our tactics and our command and control processes,” Franklin said in a news release. “Most importantly though, we reinforced our already strong US-IDF relationships. From our most senior commanders to most junior enlisted troops, we proved once again there is clearly no substitute for training side by side with our Israeli partners.”

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