IAF pilots are some of the best-trained in the world. Being one of these pilots requires a great aptitude for stressful situations and immense pressure to perform quickly with imperfect information.
Of every squadron graduating from school, a hand-selected few become ‘leader pilots‘. A leader’s job is to oversee and command various operations, and function as the one responsible during operational missions where mere seconds can mean life or death.
"Each of us has his own solution to different dilemmas; each has his own way of thinking and perspective on the complex situations they face.” –Lt. Amir
At the “Ramon” Air Force Base, the future leaders are preparing for take-off to simulate an attack on a rocket launching area in the Gaza Strip; however, the attack point is teeming with civilian activity.
Pilots are taught to be aware of civilians and to exhaust all other options in order to spare lives wherever possible. “Dealing with these sorts of events requires a large amount of caution, a lot like working with tweezers–we must tread very carefully”, explains Lt. Amir, a leader pilot.
IAF air traffic control supervising from afar
IAF pilots are given the latest on-board technological systems and data analysis tools available, but when it is time to ‘push the button’, only a human can make the decision. Before they can decide, pilots must answer a series of questions–a sort of verbal checklist.
- “Does the launcher have a rocket in it?”
- “Are the people standing around it involved or uninvolved?”
- “How many people are there?”
- “Any civilian buildings nearby?”
There are more questions, but stalling, even momentarily, can result in another rocket launched at Israel.
"There is no black and white in these situations, no right and wrong." –Lt. Amir
At times the pilots are forced to conclude that the mission must be aborted, and this can often be the most difficult decision to make–to return home. It’s a decision that has to be made, though–if the risk of civilian casualties is too high, the pilots are forbidden from carrying out the task.