US-led armada secretly drilled bombing Iranian targets, missile defense with Israel.
The armada of 10 US warships plus an Israeli and German battle vessel each, which transited the Suez Canal Friday, June 18, has reached the Persian Gulf, DEBKAfile’s military sources report.
But first, from June 6 through June 10, the USS Harry S. Truman carrier Strike Group was deployed 50 miles of the shore of southwestern Israel, secretly drilling the interception of incoming Iranian, Syrian and Hizballah missiles and rockets against US and Israeli targets in the Middle East.
The fleet let by the Truman then headed for the Persian Gulf through the Suez Canalaccompanied by an Israeli missile ship (not identified) and the German missile frigate FGS Hessen F221.
For five days and night, the Truman’s sixty F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fighter bombers took off on simulated bombing missions against targets set up by the Israeli Air Force at its firing range on the Nevatim Base-28, in the Negev desert southeast of Be’er Sheva – one of its three big air bases.
The exercise was prompted by rising tensions from Syria’s deployment of advanced Scud missiles for Hizballah on its border with Lebanon. it took place not far from the spot where Israeli commandos subsequently raided the Turkish Mavi Marmara on May 31. The Super Hornets flew simulated bombing missions night and day against targets set up by the Israeli Air Force at its firing range on the Nevatim Base-28, in the Negev desert southeast of Be’er Sheva – one of three big Israeli air facilities.
The exercise had 60 American F-16 fighter jets landing at Israeli Air Force facilities from bases in Germany and Romania, refueling and taking off with Israeli fighter bombers to practice long-range bombing missions over the Red Sea and the Mediterranean and drill air-to-air combat along the way.
Both Washington and Jerusalem withheld public exposure of this US-Israeli aerial exercise, dubbed Juniper Stallion 2010. President Barack Obama ordered all US missile interceptors in the Middle East to go on war alert in the second week of June, including batteries aboard US Sixth Fleet vessels on the Mediterranean and the US Fifth Fleet in the Persian Gulf.
DEBKAfile’s military sources add that Israel’s missile’s shield, including Arrow anti-missile missiles, was similarly on standby. It was decided at the White House to stage the Juniper Stallion exercise only eight months after Juniper Cobra 10, the biggest joint war maneuver the US and Israel had ever conducted against missile attack, after receiving new intelligence that Iran, Syria and Hizballah had almost doubled their operational armory of medium-range missiles.
Switching over to a tough line, US defense secretary Robert Gates warned a Senate panel on June 18 that Iran could fire “scores or hundreds” of short- and medium-range missiles against Europe – in salvoes rather than one or two at a time.
Four days later, Gates told a Fox interviewer: “I don’t think we’re prepared to even talk about containing a nuclear Iran. I think… our view still is we do not accept the idea of Iran having nuclear weapons.” Asked whether a military strike was preferable, he said all options remain on the table although some time is left for working on problem.” DEBKA