“The main emphasis is on cooperation between the various formations of the airbase”
The goal: to prepare for any possible scenario
Keep it under the wraps, but Cobra pilots still have a surprise waiting
A “Color Red” alarm, missiles falling around the base, helicopters recuing the ‘injured’ and UAVs looking for rocket launchers. Thus concludes the first day of simulated war at Palmachim airbase
Mai Efrat and Lya Shanel
At the Blackhawk “Rolling Sword” squadron, the day began as usual, when suddenly an alarm sounded: ‘Code Red, Code Red’. Everyone hurries to enter the protective space and is updated with the latest news-a missile has hit the squadron area. The on-call team opens the door and runs toward the source of the explosion, which turns out to be nothing more than a kitchen pot burning in the grass.
This is just one of the scenarios that the combat-readiness day at Palmachim airbase included. The flight squadron prepared more than a few surprises, whose purpose was to make sure everyone is on their toes and prepared. “For all our intents and purposes, a war had broken today”, explains Major Amir, Deputy Commander of the Squadron. “The main emphasis today is on cooperation between the formations of the airbase, especially between helicopters and UAVs. It is definitely important when it comes down to it in the warzone”, he promises.
“It’s a very diverse airbase”, agrees Lieutenant Colonel N’, commander of the ‘First Combat Helicopter’ squadron. “When you practice together, you get to know the capabilities and limits, you plan together and a personal relationship is formed. All this is definitely noticeable come escalation time”. The combat helicopter squadron also had surprises in store for its pilots: attacks, assistance to ground forces and accompanying transport helicopters. “The helicopters that took off now don’t even know where they will land”, says Lieutenant Colonel N’.
Smoke on the Runway
On a day like this, it seems like even landing isn’t a safe thing. In order to disrupt the airbase’s peace as powerfully as possible, the organizers of the exercise landed a missile at the heart of the runway. “The Eastern runway is closed until further notice”, declares First Lieutenant Zohar Brinberg, the overseeing officer who is trying to take over things from the tower. Despite the sounds of disappointment that are heard on the communication lines, the runway is blocked and bomb neutralizing teams, an ambulance and a firefighting truck arrive at the scene. “We were sitting at the station and were suddenly surprised “, says Corporal Tzachi, one of the firefighters who was summoned. “We arrived quickly and took over the fire. It’s good that we have exercises like this and they’re taken seriously”.
At the end of the day, after everyone convened for a final debriefing and a joint dinner, it’s easy to think the challenges are over. But for AH-1 Cobra pilots, nothing is over yet. “A hiking mission is waiting for them at the end of the day”, says Commander of the squadron. “The idea is to experiment in the field of uncertainty and integrate physical difficulty as well. From the pilots to the operation administrators, everyone will go through it together. It’s good exercise”, he smiles, “And regardless, surprises are always a good thing”.