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Blue Wings 2020 Exercise

A historic first! August 2020 saw the visit of Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-16C/D “Barak” fighter jets deploying to Germany. With security on high alert and very restricted access to Nörvenich air base, the main location of the event, this is a view from outside the fence during one of the days of the exercise.

Where? Nörvenich Airbase, Germany
When? August 2020

Recent years saw a growing cooperation between the Israeli Air Force (IAF) and the German Air Force / Luftwaffe. 2017 and 2019 German Eurofighters participated in the “Blue Flag” exercises at Ovda in the Negev Desert, Southern Israel. After these two participations, 2020 saw a historic first: a visit of Israeli fighter jets to Germany.

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The Israeli Air Force Deployment

On August 17th, 2020, the IAF deployed six F-16s „Barak“ fighter jets from Hatzor to Nörvenich Air Base, consisting of three single-seat F-16C of 101 „First Fighter“ Squadron and three twin-seat F-16D of 105 “Scorpion” Squadron. The deployment was complemented by one Gulfstream G550 „Eitam“ Airborne Early Warning (AEW) platform. Two Boeing 707 „Re’em“ transport and air-air refuelling jets supported the transfer flight from Israel, which took the formation via Italy and France to Germany, not counting all those additional C-130 Hercules transport flights that arrived at Nörvenich the week before.

Blue Wings meet MAG Days

The Israeli Air Force jets stayed at Nörvenich for two weeks. The first week of flying was within the frame of the “Blue Wings” exercise, the second week saw the participations of the IAF F-16s in the Luftwaffe’s “Multinational Air Group Days” (MAG Days).

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Flying above the 'valley of darkness'

August 18th was the most memorable day of the deployment. On this day a mixed formation of two Luftwaffe Eurofighters and two IAF F-16s led by an IAF G550 aircraft performed a fly-by of the Dachau concentration camp and Fürstenfeldbruck airport, the site of the “Munich massacre” during the 1972 Summer Olympics. Overflying those two sites, the two Air Forces did not only honor the tens of thousands of victims of the NS regime, but put also to show that a friendship between these two Air Forces has been formed. Or, as Major General Amikam Norkin of the IAF radioed on air during the fly-by : „Flying together above the valley of darkness making room for only light ahead. As we vow: never again!

 

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A great day at the fence

Of course the attendance of such exotic jets caused excitement amongst planespotters and avgeeks as well. During the two weeks of the exercise, Nörvenich air base was the goal of a pilgrimage of people equipped, with cameras and stepladders.

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For the joy of the spectators and plane spotters the IAF proved an impressive sortie rate, regularly flying all six jets in the morning sortie, and four in the afternoon. They went up to train and fight with two pairs of three Eurofighters each, while the G550 AEW platform flew its surveillance patterns.

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Flying with the operationally experienced Israeli pilots surely brought a steep learning curve for the German pilots, while at the same time the IAF had the opportunity to operate in a dense airspace and under NATO procedures.

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Not only from an aviation enthusiast point of view it has been a pleasure to see IAF jets in Germany. Hopefully this cooperation will see a regular exchange in the future, strengthening even more the ties between Germany and Israel!

To conclude this report here are some more photos of this historic exercise:

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