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US, Israel Gear Up for Large-Scale Missile Defense Exercise: US military personnel are gathering in Israel to take part in next week's Austere Challenge 2012, the largest military exercise between the two nations to date, according to a Pentagon release. More than 3,500 Americans and 1,000 Israelis will participate at locations throughout Israel and off-shore during the three-week missile defense exercise, states the Oct. 17 release. US personnel will man Patriot anti-missile systems, an Aegis ballistic missile defense ship, and other air defense systems, while the Israelis will test their Iron Dome and Arrow 2 systems and tie in their David's Sling into the scenarios. "This exercise is purely about improving our combined US-Israeli capabilities," said Lt. Gen. Craig Franklin, 3rd Air Force Commander and senior US commander for the exercise. He added, "It is not related to national elections nor any perceived tensions in the Middle East." Most of the exercise will be simulation, but some training will entail live fire, said Israel Defense Forces Brig. Gen. Nitzan Nuriel, Israeli lead planner for Austere Challenge. (See also An 'Unshakeable' Bond.)