Following suspicious vessels Naval fighters climb aboard the IAI Westwind airplane and AS-565 helicopter, cooperating with the “First UAV Squadron”–all in efforts to defend Israeli territorial water from up above
Shir Aharon Bram
Cooperation is very welcom in the IAF to say the least. Putting aside joint training sessions with foreign militaries, the IAF cooperates with many other IDF units: training with Golani, aerially assisting officers of the Gaza Division and accompanying infantries of Judea and Samaria with UAVs. Cooperation with the Israeli Navy may be less recognized, but to the Naval Scouting Division there is nothing more natural.
The aviated scouting unit of the Israeli navy was established in 1975, after eight terrorists were able to invade Israel through the ocean and execute a terrorist attack at the ‘Savoy Hotel’, where 11 people were killed. These days, members of the naval scouting unit join the IAI Westwind airplane and scan the Israeli territorial waters. The primary goal: providing accurate naval intelligence photos in order to keep a close eye on every suspicious vessel.
Not only does the unit utilize IAI Westwind aircrafts that contain radars and other tracking devices, but it also operates with the Heron 1 UAV. Alongside the Westwind squadron “Desert Giants” and the “First UAV” Squadron they participate in almost each naval operation. Throughout the years, they were a part of catching artillery vessels like the ‘Karin A’ and ‘Victoria’, followed the Marmara (Gaza Freedom) flotilla and joined many others in clandestine operations.
When the unit was established, it faced many dilemmas–Is the unit apart of the IAF or the Israeli Navy? The solution agreed upon was that the unit belonged to the Israeli Navy but should be stationed in one of the IAF’s squadron bases in order to reach maximal cooperation. The naval scouts arrive from the missile boat course and are assigned to aerial team members of the IAI Westwind and to UAV operators.
“Each force has its own work methods and that is very significant in this cooperation” says Corporal Adi, a naval scout of the unit. “It shows even while working at the headquarters. But when you have so many work hours together, you’re bound to find the road to success. That’s the beauty of the unit. The IAF comes with the aerial capabilities and the Navy brings its naval knowledge, the combination allows the best collaboration in order to complete our mutual goal”.