An advanced communication and dynamic targeting system is linking the US and Israeli militaries during ongoing operations in and around the Eastern Mediterranean, making their joint efforts and capabilities more lethal than ever.
The system is called Link 16, which at its core is a communications system for transmitting and exchanging real time tactical data among the US military, NATO and other allies.
It provides a secure, jam-resistant, high-speed digital data link that operates at radio and microwave frequencies.
The network enables a range of platforms, including aircraft, surface ships, ground vehicles, missile defence systems, networked weapons and command-and-control networks, to exchange text, imagery and digital voice messages.
In addition, Link 16 provides relative navigation capability and precise participant location and identification, according to BAE Systems.
The capabilities of this system are relevant in the current environment, as for the first time since 2017, the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group is now operating in the Mediterranean Sea amidst the Russian invasion of Ukraine and persistent global threats.
The strike group includes the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier, the most modern Nimitz-class super carrier of the US Navy; the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf; and the guided missile destroyers USS Farragut and USS Truxtun.
The group also includes the most robust air wing detachment in the US Navy, including F-18 fighter jets, electronic attack aircraft, and attack helicopters.
Its planes and pilots have been central to numerous operations across the world for the past 20 years, including operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
US, Israeli militaries linked
While the carrier group operates in the Eastern Mediterranean, Israel is connected to this significant US military presence through Link 16.
Israel, which has purchased hundreds of fighter aircraft from the United States over the years, is estimated to have at least 36 F-35 aircraft and more than 300 F-16 fighter jets.
The carrier group, through Link 16, has the ability to instantaneously establish dynamic targeting capability with the Israeli aircraft.
On November 29 and 30, US Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16 Fighting Falcons, and KC-10 Extenders participated in an exercise with Israeli air force F-35 Lightning IIs and F-16s over the Eastern Mediterranean.
The exercise focused on fighter integration and refueling operations, according to US Air Forces Central (AFCENT).
"This bilateral exercise demonstrates CENTCOM [US Central Command]'s commitment to regional security," said Gen. Michael "Erik" Kurilla, commander of CENTCOM.
"CENTCOM routinely demonstrates the ability to rapidly insert combat airpower into operations and exercises with our partners, and our ability to do the same across all domains decisively is a powerful deterrent," he said.
Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, AFCENT commander, noted the strong partnership between AFCENT and the Israeli air force.
"This exercise showcases our commitment to partnering with Israel to counter threats to regional security and stability," Grynkewich said. "The Israeli air force provides tremendous deterrent capability and capacity throughout the Middle East region, and we'll continue to build opportunities to improve our integrated defences and ability to project combined airpower."
The presence of the Bush Carrier Strike Group in the Eastern Mediterranean coincides with the presence of the French Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier group in the same waters.
The Charles de Gaulle has teamed up with allied navies for an extended mission in the Eastern Mediterranean, with the aim of significantly increasing France's presence in military operations in the Middle East and Africa for months to come.
The Charles de Gaulle departed France on November 15 as part of Mission Antares, which involves 3,000 service members from France and allied partners.
As of mid December, the Charles de Gaulle was reporting from the Eastern Mediterranean and engaged in combat simulations as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the international coalition mission to defeat the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).
In recent months, the US military has been carrying out a number of major exercises that aim to reinforce US commitment to allies across the world.
One such mission in November involved flying heavy US bombers across the US CENTCOM as part of the Bomber Task Force (BTF) mission.
During the mission, two B-52H Stratofortress aircraft flew from the US state of Louisiana to a region that includes the Middle East and Central Asia, and co-ordinated with 13 partner nation air forces along the way, a CENTCOM statement said.
One such co-ordination was with Israel. Israeli Air Force F-35 Adir fighter jets escorted the bombers above Israeli airspace on their way back from the Arabian Gulf.