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US CENTCOM pulls closer to Israeli military as Mossad tests Iran

Training exercise represents the tightest collaboration ever, but CENTCOM's deputy commander told Al-Monitor the US had no involvement in recent strikes attributed to Israel in Isfahan, Iran and eastern Syria.
An Israeli Air Force F-35 Lightning II fighter jet performs during a graduation ceremony of Israeli Air Force pilots, at the Hatzerim base in the Negev desert, near the southern city of Beer Sheva, on December 28, 2022. (Photo by JACK GUEZ / AFP) (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

Last week, for the first time ever, US Air Force F-35s launched from the USS George H.W. Bush flew several hundred miles over the Mediterranean and linked up with Israeli F-35s to simulate a combined attack on surface-to-air missile batteries in the Negev desert.

As they neared the target, accompanying F-16s and F-15s peeled away to attack as many as ten fourth-plus-generation aircraft posing as the defenders of an imagined enemy airspace.

The first wave successfully cleared the skies, enabling the strikers — three nuclear-capable US B-52 bombers that had taken off from the United States some 16 hours prior, tailed by US and Israeli fighters — to drop more than 100,000 pounds of live munitions on mock strategic targets.

Buoyed by USAF KC-46 refueling tankers operating out of Israel’s Nevatim Airbase, the long-range strikes marked a new apex for the US and Israeli militaries, Air Force Lt. Gen. Gregory M. Guillot, the deputy commander of Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees all US forces in the Middle East, told Al-Monitor in an exclusive interview this week.

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