World / Middle East

US, Israel to hold anti-missile drill

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-09-05 14:21

WASHINGTON - The United States and Israel will hold a delayed ballistic missile defense exercise in late fall to underscore the strong military relationship between the two allies, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

The drill, code-named Austere Challenge 12, is a major exercise that provides important training for the defense of both nations, and is "a tangible sign of our mutual trust and defense of our two nations," Pentagon spokesman George Little told a news briefing.

The joint exercise, which was requested by Israeli defense ministry to be moved from May to late fall, remains the largest of its kind between the two nations, Little said.

"The exercise has not changed in scope and will include the same types of systems as planned," he said. "All deployed systems will be fully operational with their associated operators, including the missile interceptors."

The US will have fewer personnel in the exercise than originally planned because of other operations already scheduled in the same timeframe, Little said, stressing that the US-Israeli defense relationship is stronger than ever.

The missile defense drill is aimed at defeating a possible missile attack launched by Iran, which has been accused by Israel and the US-led West of attempting to develop a nuclear weapon that could threaten the existence of the Jewish state.

Israel has been warning Iran that it would resort to the use of force to prevent Tehran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, fueling fears that it could launch a unilateral military strike at Iran.

Due to the unpredictable political and military implications of attacking Iran, US President Barack Obama, who is seeking reelection, prefers tough economic sanctions to deter Iran from crossing the red line of taking the final step to produce a nuclear bomb.

To forestall an Israeli strike at Iran, Washington is also considering launching cyber attacks to slow down Iran's nuclear program, and working with Gulf countries to set up a regional missile shield by integrating the anti-missile systems based in six Gulf Cooperation Council nations, which include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

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