75 years after the liberation of the Auschwitz extermination camp, six Israeli F-16 aircraft landed at the Nörvenich air base southwest of Cologne. It was the first time Israeli fighters had ever touched down on German soil.

For two weeks, German Eurofighters and Israeli F-16s trained side by side in joint air operations. They were at the home of the Tactical Air Force Squadron 31 "Boelcke" for this year’s Blue Wings exercises.

The exercises marked another milestone in the ever-closer military cooperation between the two countries.

Both air forces practiced joint air operations during the first week, in the second the Israeli soldiers took part in the Multinational Air Group Days (MAG Days), which take place several times a year. The operation allowed the Israeli pilots to get to know German airspace, which are a real contrast to the topography in Israel.

The German Air Force has twice previously participated in the Israeli-based multinational exercise Blue Flag, most recently in November 2019. In addition, the two air forces have been working closely together for years in the Heron training programme.

German Air Force Inspector General, Lieutenant General Ingo Gerhartz said: “After the crime of the Shoah against humanity, it is a moving sign of our friendship today that we are flying side by side with the Israeli Air Force for the first time in our history. Following the darkest chapter in German history, it is our mission today to fight anti-Semitism with consistency.”

A formation of two Eurofighters officially welcomed the Lieutenant General’s Israeli counterpart, Major General Amikam Norkin.

"On behalf of the German Air Force it was honour for me to welcome the Israeli Air Force into German airspace for the first time in history.”

During the visit, a historic joint flight over Fürstenfeldbruck, the site of the 1972 Olympic bombing, took place. Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer also laid wreaths with the two Air Force Chiefs and the Israeli Ambassador at the Dachau concentration camp memorial site to commemorate the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime.

Photos: Dr. Stefan Petersen/Bundeswehr