A reader sent me the link below and brought this item to my attention. Not only is the link important for the declared purpose of the exercise, but also I would like to opine that there may be an equally-important secondary reason for this exercise that is not included in the media account.

The Israeli-American military exercise involves having military forces from both nations practice a coordinated effort to “test the two countries’ missile defense systems.” The exercise will include approximately 2,000 military personnel and “17 warships” from the USA. Obviously, this exercise is being conducted to determine whether the joint air defense systems of the Israelis and Americans can shoot down attacking missiles which could be fired by Iran (or its clients such as Syria and Hezbollah) against Israeli targets. The exercise will involve intercepting missiles fired from “hundreds of miles away” which argues that Iranian missiles are the assumed “hostiles” in this exercise.

If this exercise convinces both nations that Iranian missiles can be successfully shot down, it could either hasten or delay an attack against Iran depending on your interpretation of the results. One could say that it means an attack can be launched soon because Iranian missiles can be knocked down, or another could say that because Iran’s missiles can be knocked down, that allows more time for diplomacy. This has major ramifications for other nations, especially Jordan. If Iranian missiles attack Israeli targets, they will fly over Jordan on their way to Israel. If Israeli/American missiles shoot them down, the destroyed Iranian missiles are likely to fall to the ground on Jordanian soil. You can see why Jordan would have the right to very concerned about this if the Iranian missiles have chemical, bacteriological or nuclear warheads on them.

I hope the Israelis and Americans are practicing against not only indigenously-built Iranian missiles, but also against more-capable missiles that Russia or China might have secretly sold to the Iranians. This brings me to my opinion re: a possible secondary (and unstated) reason for this exercise. I am intrigued by the fact that 17 U.S. Navy warships are participating in this exercise and these warships will be “equipped with radar systems to detect surface-to-surface missiles for the exercise.” This exercise will also include live firing of “dummy missiles” to test all the radar systems. Having 17 U.S. Navy ships in this exercise is quite remarkable. Obviously all U.S. Navy warships already have a variety of radar systems on board, so this test has to mean that a new defensive radar system is being tested on them. If any of those “dummy missiles”‘ being fired have the characteristics of a supersonic cruise missile, I think that this exercise may also be testing a new defensive system against the Russian-made, Sizzler, surface-to-surface cruise missiles which has already been deployed in the Russian and Chinese Navies and may be installed on Iranian shore batteries waiting for a justification to launch them at U.S. Navy ships in the Persian Gulf.

The fact that so many U.S. Navy ships are involved infers that the U.S. Navy wishes to see how well the radars and defensive systems (not revealed) work on a wide variety of naval ships. That many ships also would typically be found in a U.S. Navy task force that included one or more aircraft carriers and amphibious assault ships (smaller carriers which usually launch helicopters or vertically-launched aircraft in support of U.S. marines being sent ashore). Having this many ships in the exercise could test how well an upgraded AEGIS defensive system will work when it needs to be coordinated among many U.S. ships at the same time. If this is what is also being tested in this exercise, the war planners better assume that any Iranian Sizzlers will be fired in volleys and their Iranian launch facilities may be manned by Russian and Chinese technicians who will monitor every possible radar, voice and energy transmission by U.S. warships’ defensive systems to determine what the Navy is using to counter Sizzler missiles and how they can improve its capabilities against U.S .and western warships. If this is another purpose for this exercise using so many U.S. warships, it implies the U.S. Navy has not previously had a reliable defensive system to use against the Sizzler and they are rushing to test an effective fleet defense option for U.S. Navy ships. If so, let us hope and pray the defensive systems work very well.

This second possible reason for the military exercise also has major implications for an American and/or Israeli attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities. In order for this attack to occur, the U.S. Navy has to be reasonably sure that its ships are survivable in the Persian Gulf against Sizzler (and other) missiles and that they can carry out their missions as part of such an attack. An American/Israeli attack against Iran has been rumored for so long now that the entire world must feel like it is experiencing a “Waiting for Godot” kind of experience. Is it ever going to happen or not? Such an attack would have serious consequences for many nations so it cannot be undertaken lightly. Perhaps the Americans and Israelis have been waiting for the development and deployment of a defensive system that will reliably counter Sizzler missiles launched against ships in the Persian Gulf. If this exercise demonstrates that such a system now exists, the world may not have to wait much longer for such an attack to occur. Previous blogs have cited reports that the Israelis are not willing to wait much longer than the end of December.

Again, my thoughts may be “right on target” or they may be wrong. We’ll likely never be told one way or the other. However, there is a very large number of U.S. warships involved in this “missile defense” exercise. That is a major commitment of money, sailors and equipment. That is the size of exercise which would be needed to test a new fleet-defense weapon system for the U.S. Navy against Russian, Chinese and (possibly) Iranian supersonic cruise missiles…and that is food for thought.