The “Chariots of Fire” exercise is unprecedented in scale and scope and will prepare the army to maintain a high level of readiness in a constantly evolving region. As the largest military drill to ever take place in Israel, thousands of active-duty soldiers and reservists will be participating in the drill, which will also involve all commands.
In a signal to Iran, the U.S. Air Force refueling planes are expected to partake in the aerial part of the exercise.
The Commander of the U.S. Army’s Central Command, Gen. Michael Kurila, arrived in Israel this week to watch the initial stages of the drill unfold. Visiting as a personal guest of IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, Kurila will focus on strengthening the joint operational cooperation between the U.S. and Israel. On the day of Kurila’s arrival, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz stated that in the case of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, military, economic and political power can sometimes be the tools needed to preemptively prevent a large scale conflict. He added, “This is true about the situation with Iran today.
Israel is getting prepared for all scenarios by building its military power and by holding strategic talks with the Biden administration. The cost of countering Iran now is higher than it was a year ago and lower than it will be a year from now.” While Kurila is in Israel, Gantz will meet with his American counterpart, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
In the last few years, amidst frequent barrages of rocket fire launched from Israel’s northern Lebanese border and southern Gaza border, the Jewish state has also had to contend with an increasingly threatening Iran. Stalled joint U.S.-Iranian nuclear negotiations in Vienna combined with Iran’s growing weapons arsenal and looming nuclear breakout time are worrisome for Israel. Due to this fact, the “Chariots of Fire” drill will incorporate simulated attacks on Iranian nuclear targets.
The regime’s largely hidden underground nuclear facilities could pose a challenge to the IDF. Additionally, Israel must consider Iran’s region-wide proxies in its calculations, since these well-armed militia groups could retaliate once the IDF makes the first move. This part of the drill remains extremely significant since officials reported Iran was merely a few weeks away from acquiring enough fissile material for a nuclear bomb.
The IDF will also be using its new AI platform dubbed “The Gospel,” to gather intelligence on real-time targets during the drills. This target incubator functions by producing hundreds of targets while troops are already in motion, which has proved to be a challenging task for the IDF historically. According to the Jerusalem Post, the center producing the targets will also involve a legitimacy team that will “provide detailed intelligence on targets struck to partners as well as declassified intelligence to the press.”
The recent uptick in escalations by Iran and its proxies across the region indicate the regime could be gearing up for conflict. The unprecedented scope and size of the “Chariots of Fire” exercise appears necessary.
Maya Carlin is a Middle East Defense Editor with 19FortyFive. She is also an analyst with the Center for Security Policy and a former Anna Sobol Levy Fellow at IDC Herzliya in Israel. She has by-lines in many publications, including The National Interest, Jerusalem Post, and Times of Israel.