The cooperation between the Hellenic and Israeli Air Force continues to take flight: a joint training exercise between the two forces ended this week. Attack and defense, low altitude flights, neutralization of threats and aerial ATC; these scenarios and many more were rehearsed by IAF squadrons in the skies of Greece

Illy Pe’ery and Carmel Stern

A large-scale aerial joint training exercise, led by the Hellenic Air Force with squadrons from many other countries such as the United States, Italy and Israel, was held this month in Greece. The “Scorpion” and the “First Fighter” Squadron, which operate the “Barak” (F-16C/D) fighter jet and the “Nahshon” Squadron, which operates the “Nahshon” (Gulfstream G-550) joined forces for the purpose of intensive, mutual training in a challenging and complex aerial arena. “The exercise combined many operational aspects alongside mental challenges”, shared Capt. Emanuel, a pilot from the “Scorpion” Squadron. “All of the obvious elements entailed in flying in Israel are completely different outside of it – from the runways to the radio communication, which is performed in a language we aren’t used to. All of these elements make us operate in uncertainty, a fact which better prepares us for combat, an experience which essentially involves uncertainty”.

Squadrons Return from Exercise in Greece

Photography: Amit Agronov

“Get used to the difference”
Before leaving Israel for the exercise, the IAF delegates all participated in a preparation workshop. “We tried to focus on properly dealing with foreign experiences”, said Lt. Aviad, a pilot from the “Scorpion” Squadron. “The aircrews performed exercises in which they communicated only in English and rehearsed complex missions in accordance with NATO combat doctrine”.

Squadrons Return from Exercise in Greece

Photography: Amit Agronov

The Spearhead of Aerial ATC
This isn’t the “Nahshon” Squadron’s first international training exercise. The squadron, which specializes in aerial air traffic control, is world renowned for its capabilities. The squadron sent a “Nahshon” (Gulfstream G-550), which performed the Air Traffic Control for all the participating squadrons, to Greece. “Our air traffic controllers are the spearhead of aerial ATC and the deployment is an opportunity for mutual knowledge sharing with the foreign air forces. We are exposed to the way they think and plan their missions, an experience that greatly enriches us”, described Capt. Guy, Commander of the “Nahshon” Squadron’s Operations Department. “The cooperation with the ‘Nahshon’ Squadron is a power multiplier for us”, added Capt. Emanuel.

The “Elephants” Squadron and the “Desert Giants” Squadron also took an active part in the exercise. The “Elephants” Squadron, which operates the “Shimshom” (Super Hercules C-130J) rehearsed parachuting forces in deep enemy territory and in cooperation with the fighter division, faced SAM (Surface-Air-Missile) and Air-Air threats. The “Desert Giants” Squadron, which operates the “Re’em” (Boeing 707) performed challenging aerial refueling missions in accordance with NATO combat doctrine and in a foreign language.

Squadrons Return from Exercise in Greece

Photography: Amit Agronov

Mutual Learning
A deployment of this scale isn’t a common occurrence and requires many hours of preparation. There is no doubt that the investment is large, but it also holds extremely valuable results, which cannot be obtained in any other way. “The first goal we set for ourselves was mutual learning between the participating forces”, shared Capt. Emanuel. “Mutual work with them opens our horizons and challenges our creative thinking”.

“When you participate in an international exercise, you have the opportunity to train with systems you aren’t used to seeing on a daily basis. The forces that participated in the exercise in Greece operate, among other things, F-4 Phantom and Mirage jets and SAM batteries that are foreign to us”, elaborated Capt. Emanuel. “This is a unique opportunity which creates a high quality training exercise”.

Squadrons Return from Exercise in Greece

Photography: Amit Agronov

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