Patroling the skies, launched toward unrecognized aircrafts and attacking when in need
“No one really knows what will happen in a moment”
The moment an alarm sounds, he will put on a G-suit and take off
Sudden alarms, long-distance flights, simulated aerial battles and in-depth operations–routine is the last word that can describe the life of a combat pilot. We embarked on a mission to uncover the combat pilot’s average day
Lilach Gonen and Tal Michael
After three exhausting years of the elite IAF Pilot Training Course, and a considerable period of preparation, young combat pilots can finally rest. That is what we thought until now, the moment at which the communications line of the “First Jet Squadron” trembled and Captain Yuval was in charge. “The radar dropped?” he asks the pilot who has already settled on the runway to prepare for takeoff. “I think I can take off, it will calibrate”, says the pilot as Captain Yuval opened the instructional manual looking for a solution. “What do you think about this?”, Yuval asks the closest technical officer, who promises that there will be no problem. “Permission for takeoff”, he says and goes back to the graphs he doodled enthusiastically just moments before the mishap.
So this is how it goes–once a week, every combat pilot becomes a supervising authority of the Squadron. “The supervisor is responsible for almost everything”, explains Yuval, “Starting with meal times ending with issues that pilots face up in the air”. In days in which he isn’t busy in the operations room, a combat pilot is maneuvers amongst the various takeoffs and training sessions and his other “official” jobs. “Each of us has his own ‘official duty’–a job we have to complete on land. There are navigational officers who are responsible for planning routes and examining maps, an intelligence officer, ammunition officers and more”.
Once a week, all of the Squadron’s members and officers meet in order to construct the weekly flight and training schedules. “Everything is planned ahead, but the truth is that no one really knows what will happen until the moment it does. You could be summoned at any second”. As soon as the alarm goes off he will hurry into his G-suit and overall and will quickly prepare for takeoff. For what mission? That will only be answered on the way to the plane. “We do it all. We patrol the skies if needed, rush towards aircrafts that the control room can’t identify and attack if needed. I could be across the border in only a few moments”.
Here, decision making happened in seconds. “It catches us at every second; it becomes a part of our daily routine. Even my friends say I complete things too quickly. I don’t feel it because I guess that it’s already a part of me”, admits Captain Yuval. When the day is over, the pilots go back home, unsure of what tomorrow holds. “I try going to bed early, in case I get rushed into a mission tomorrow–you never know”.