JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli and U.S. troops began their largest-ever joint aerial defense exercise.
Austere Challenge 12, which began Sunday, is part of a training exercise designed to increase military cooperation between the United States and Israel. Its planning began more than two years ago and is not a response to specific events in the Middle East, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.
Last month, Time magazine reported that the exercise had been downsized and indicated that part of the reason was American distrust of Israel.
U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin said Austere Challenge 2012 is the largest U.S.-Israel military exercise to date, according to the American Forces Press Service.
The exercise will last three weeks and involve more than 3,500 American service personnel and 1,000 Israeli soldiers. Part of the exercise reportedly will involve live fire.
Of the exercise’s $38 million price tag, the United States will pay $30 million and Israel $8 million.