Last week, the IAF’s UAV Operators Course came to an end. Two of the IAF’s new UAV operators immigrated to Israel from other countries and overcame countless challenges in their journey

Hadas Levav

Last week, the IAF’s UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Operators Course came to an end: In a ceremony in Palmahim AFB, the young operators received their wings and officers ranks. “You are joining a division which operates non-stop and whose capabilities develop daily. The UAV Division is credited with many groundbreaking achievements in the history of aerial warfare, and its future is unimaginable”, said Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel, IAF Commander, to the young graduates. “The UAV division provides the IAF with comprehensive and powerful operational capabilities”.

“The preservation of the IDF’s qualitative advantage is based first and foremost on the preservation of its human element”, emphasized Brig. Gen. Nimrod, Palmahim AFB Commander. “The leading power in the UAV Division is its people. The aircraft themselves may be unmanned, but they are operated by people”.

They may have six months of theoretical and practical studies of the fundamentals of UAV operation behind them, but their training is far from over. They will now begin three months of operational training, after which they will become operational UAV operators in the IAF’s squadrons. “The course’s finish line is actually a starting line, tomorrow you will begin feeling the heavy responsibility on your shoulders”, explained Maj. Gen. Eshel.

New UAV Operators in the IAF

Photography: Mor Tzidon

Against All Odds
Among the graduates, a few stories stand out. One of them is Capt. Avner, a 27 year old lone soldier from Argentina. “I was always influenced by stories about Israel, I was fascinated by the fact that Israel is such a small and threatened country that continues to advance and exist”.

After completing his high school studies he traveled to Israel. Capt. Avner studied Hebrew and performed various kinds of volunteer work over the course of a year, after which he went back to Argentina, become a certified civilian pilot and then returned to Israel, this time – for good. “I tried out for flight school but failed because my Hebrew wasn’t good enough. I decided to draft to a different unit and re-do the language test later”.

Capt. Avner served in the Golani Infantry Brigade for a year and a half, after which he set out to become a squad commander. From squad commander course he was recruited by a classified unit in the IDF’s Intelligence Corps where he served as a special operator for three years and later became an officer. But Capt. Avner never gave up on his dream to become an IAF pilot, he tried again, but was screened out and redirected to the UAV operators’ course. “I’m happy I made this decision, the world of unmanned aircraft is gaining momentum, and people still don’t fully understand its significant.

New UAV Operators in the IAF

Photography: Mor Tzidon

From Aerial Observer to UAV Operator
Another new UAV operator whose path to wings was quite challenging is Lt. A. He drafted into the Flight Academy and after being screened out was offered to become an aerial observer in the “First Squadron”. He served as an aerial observer for eight months and served in the IAF’s Operation HQ as a Surveillance Officer for another six months. “As an officer in the surveillance department I fully understood the missions and capabilities of the Surveillance and UAV Division, and how important it is in the IAF. I then decided to become a UAV operator”.

New UAV Operators in the IAF

Photography: Mor Tzidon

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