U.S., Israel finish largest-ever joint military exercise


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The U.S. military and the Israel Defense Forces concluded Austere Challenge 2012, called the largest joint exercise ever held by the two countries.

The exercise ended Tuesday following a two-day, live-fire exercise that was deemed a success by military observers from the U.S. European Command and the IDF.

The three-week exercise, which began last month and involved more than 2,500 American service personnel and 1,000 Israeli soldiers, was designed to improve interoperability between the U.S. and Israeli militaries and was conducted as part of a long-standing strategic agreement to hold bilateral training exercises on a regular basis.

"We made great strides in improving our tactics and our command and control processes," U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, the commander of Joint Defense Forces-Israel during Austere Challenge 2012, said in a statement. "Most importantly, though, we reinforced our already strong U.S.-IDF relationships. From our most senior commanders to most junior enlisted troops, we proved once again that there is clearly no substitute for training side by side with our Israeli partners."

The exercise was not in response to any current specific tensions in the region, according to the IDF.                                                             

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