The Israel Defense Forces and U.S. Central Command on Monday launched Exercise Juniper Oak 2023, which is taking place in Israel and the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

The drills will include a live-fire event with more than 140 aircraft including B-52s, F-35s, F-15s, F-16s, F/A-18s, AC-130 Hercules transports, AH-64 Apache helicopters, 12 naval vessels, High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems.

Juniper Oak will also integrate assets such as special operations forces, infantry and space forces.

This exercise aims to strengthen collective Israeli-U.S. readiness and improve the interoperability of both militaries, thereby contributing to regional stability, according to CENTCOM

“Consistent with CENTCOM’s strategic approach of People, Partners, and Innovation, we are committed to strengthening military-to-military relations throughout the region,” said Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, commander of CENTCOM. “Juniper Oak is a Combined Joint All-Domain exercise which improves our interoperability on land, in the air, at sea, in space and in cyberspace with our partners, enhances our ability to respond to contingencies, and underscores our commitment to the Middle East,” he added.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant met last week with Kurilla at military headquarters in Tel Aviv.

During the meeting, Gallant emphasized the unique and powerful bond between Israel and the United States, and the importance of deepening defense and technological cooperation between the countries. He also commended the “great value” that the CENTCOM military framework provides to multilateral defense coordination in the Middle East, saying it contributed directly to regional security and stability.

Gallant expressed his commitment to ensuring ongoing dialogue and further expanding cooperation, especially as it relates to exchanges “in the face of Iranian and proxy attacks on sovereign nations.”

CENTCOM expanded its area of responsibility to include Israel on Sept. 1, 2021, taking over from the European Command (EUCOM) in a change announced during the final days of the Trump administration.

Despite its location in the Middle East, Israel had been part of EUCOM’s area of responsibility for several decades, largely to avoid friction between Israel and Arab militaries. However, with deepening ties between Israel and several Arab countries, coupled with growing threats from Iran, a need for better coordination between Israeli and American forces in the region was deemed necessary.

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