Big US airlift drill starts Monday. Fresh Hamas demands for Gilad Shalit

DEBKAfile, Political Analysis, Espionage, Terrorism, Security
The United States launches a large-scale exercise over the Middle East deploying 41 giant transports of the 22nds Airlift Squadron Monday Oct. 17, the day before the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is scheduled to be released by Hamas. The US Transportation Command and its Air Forces Transportation will be testing its ability to provide a rapid strategic airlift response to major crises and contingencies.

Tuesday morning, when the Israel and Hamas prisoner exchange is due to be executed, the giant US transports will drill landings in Israel and Saudi Arabia. The aircraft will be packed with command and control elements and fighting units with full equipment.

debkafile’s military sources report that during this critical week, the exercise ending Friday, Oct. 21 will keep an American air fleet in Middle East skies ready to land at any moment for any contingency. The Israeli, Egyptian and Saudi armies are on a high state of preparedness.
In parallel, The USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier is on its way from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean. Last Tuesday Oct. 11, as the US officials accused the Iranian government of directing a plot to assassination the Saudi ambassador to Washington, the Stennis was nearing the Red Sea.

Aboard was the Chief of US Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert who was assigned to the operation in this arena shortly after taking up his appointment.

The missions of the Stennis Battle Group, consisting of an additional seven warships, most of them destroyers and frigates, as well as Air Wing CVW-9, are to provide ground troops with combat support and strike land and sea targets. It is also able to sow mines over large areas around coastal regions and on the high sea.

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