Israel Will Practice Shooting Down Iran’s Missiles (And Denying They’re Iran’s)
By Spencer Ackerman
October 17, 2012

Just in time for a presidential election in which both candidates compete to be besties with Israel, the U.S. and Israeli militaries are holding a big, high-profile exercise to practice shooting Iranian missiles out of the sky. Only neither country wants to say the exercise is about either Iran or presidential politics.

Starting in late October, the U.S. and Israel will spend three weeks jointly testing the abilities of their Patriot missile batteries, Aegis ships, networked command systems and newer interceptors to prevent everything from rockets to armed drones to long-range ballistic missiles from hitting Israel from multiple locations. It’ll be the closest operational look the U.S. has gotten thus far to Israel’s new Iron Dome system to protect against short-range missiles and rockets. About 3,500 U.S. troops will participate in what Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, commander of the U.S. Third Air Force, called “the largest exercise in the history of the longstanding military relationship between the U.S. and Israel.”

The joint tests, dubbed “Austere Challenge 2012,” are part of a series of missile-defense drills that the U.S. and Israel schedule every two years. Only this year, there’s a contextual difference that’s hard to ignore: the prospect of an Israeli strike on Iran, which is likely to prompt retaliation from Iran and its terrorist proxies on Israel’s borders; and persistent tension between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, which has become an issue in the politics of both countries. …

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