Israeli and Jordanian air forces are reportedly participating alongside each other in the US Air Force’s premier training exercise, indicating increasing strategic and defence cooperation between the two countries.
It was reported last month by Haaretz that around ten Israeli military aircraft would participate in the American Red Flag training exercises in Nevada. Red Flag is considered the US’s premier air-to-air combat training exercise and an important opportunity to train with allied air forces. It is the first time that Israel has participated in the exercise since 2009.
However, a report this week by the US website Foxtrot Alpha says that Israeli aircraft are being joined by Jordanian fighter jets. The report says that in an unprecedented sight, Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 jets were accompanied across the Atlantic Ocean by Israeli Air Force KC-707 fuel tankers. Such collaboration would signal a new level of cooperation between Israel and Jordan.
In a further signal that the two countries are working increasingly closely together, Reuters said last month that Israel handed over a fleet of Cobra combat helicopters to Jordan, in order to help its neighbour fend off the threat of ISIS. Apparently, last year Israel gave Jordan around 16 decommissioned Cobra helicopters, which had been retired and replaced by US-supplied Apache helicopters instead. An anonymous US official familiar with the case was quoted saying that “These choppers are for border security” against ISIS and that the arrangement was approved by Washington which also helped overhaul the aircraft before their despatch to Jordan.
Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994 and have enjoyed relatively warm relations since then, including cooperation on water and other common issues. However, it is thought that security cooperation pre-dates official bilateral relations. The two countries share a number of security concerns. These include the regional influence of Iran, while Israel regards Jordan as a bulwark against the encroachment of Islamist forces in Iraq and elsewhere.