Hundreds of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Air Force planes, including fighter jets and refueling aircraft, took off overnight Wednesday from various bases to simulate striking targets far from Israel’s borders, including in Iran.
The exercise, part of the IDF’s month-long Chariots of Fire drill, saw fighter jets, transport planes and refueling aircraft take off from several bases in Israel for Cyprus.
Israel has significantly increased its readiness level and has taken steps throughout the past year to prepare a credible military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The IDF, which is planning several military options against Iran should the nuclear talks between the West and the Islamic Republic fail, is carrying out its largest drill in its history with thousands of soldiers and reservists.
One of the possible military options has been simulated during the exercise.
IAF platforms, Israeli naval units, and troops from the elite Shayetet 13, Yahalom special combat engineering unit, Oketz canine unit, intelligence forces and troops from the C4I and Cyber Defense Directorate, are also taking part in the drill that will end on Friday.
Troops are training on varying types of terrain, including wilderness, urban, rural and high-altitude mountainous areas on the island, which will act as a substitute for intense fighting against Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The drill “constitutes an important component in maintaining the readiness of the IDF for a variety of operational scenarios,” the military said.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi both visited Cyprus on Wednesday during the exercise called “Beyond the Horizon.”
During the visit, Gantz met with the Cypriot Chief of the National Guard Lt.-Gen. Demokritos Zervakis and held a situational assessment and discussions with senior IDF officers, including the Commander of the 98th Division Brig.-Gen. Ofer Winter.
Thanking the Cypriots, Gantz said that the drill on the island nation illustrated the “depth of the strategic alliance” between the two countries.
But, he warned, “the IDF is constantly preparing for operations and various campaigns, in various theaters, and will inflict a severe blow on anyone who seeks to threaten the citizens of the State of Israel.”
Last year, Kohavi announced during a speech at the Institute for National Security Studies conference in Tel Aviv that he had ordered the military to begin preparing renewed plans for a strike on Iran’s nuclear program.
“Iran can decide that it wants to advance to a bomb, either covertly or in a provocative way. In light of this basic analysis, I have ordered the IDF to prepare a number of operational plans, in addition to the existing ones. We are studying these plans and we will develop them over the next year,” Kohavi said.
With tensions increasing over Iran’s nuclear program and regional hostility, both Israel and the Islamic Republic have been threatening each other with senior officers stating that their militaries are capable of striking the other.