“There is no time to think about things, everything just happens so fast”
“You work on instincts that were built off the many trainings you accomplished”
“It’s as if you’re in a strange dance in which you go up and down”
“Once you’re in, nothing goes through your head, you’re attentive and focused on completing the mission you were sent on”.
This week, exactly 65 years ago, the first jet “Dogfight” occurred and a new era has begun. What goes through the pilots head when they’re “head to head” with the enemy? “It’s like a strange dance”
Zohar Boneh | Translation by: Ofri Aharon
“A couple months after the ‘Yom Kippur’ War I took part in an aerial battle in the Syrian front between Mt. Hermon and Damascus. I had already downed a Syrian ‘MiG’ fighter jet using a missile and I tried to hit another using the cannon. The problem was that the cannon was not aimed and I was unable to strike, so I decided to get closer to him in order to lessen the distance between us. I was then able to strike and when his fighter jet exploded, I was close to the explosion. I saw a red light flash and I was sure it meant there was a fire and the only thing that went through my head was ‘oh no, how inconvenient, now I have to abandon my jet over Syria”.
This is how Lt. Col. (Res) Avraham Shalmon described the first and last time he had to think during an aerial battle.
The stories are always similar. The pressure before take-off and the fear of the unknown and the moment the battle begins.
“Once you’re in, nothing goes through your head, you’re attentive and focused on completing the mission you were sent on. You work on instincts that were built off the many trainings you accomplished, there is no time to think about things, everything just happens so fast”, describes Colonel (Res) Giora Even, the world champion Ace in jet era with 17 downing throughout his service.
A dangerous game
throughout pilots’ course and in trainings, everything is done in order to prepare the pilots to the best of their ability, to situations of aerial combat with all the implications.
“It’s like poker: when you play with friends, you don’t play with money, but in the real game you could find yourself losing and by a lot. It could be a lot of money and you could be playing for your life”, described Lt. Col. Shalmon.
In comparison to any other persons initial instinct, the pilots learn how not to fall under the fear and anxiety that is likely to arise in battle. The fear will paralyze them, the energy that is usually put into fear, they direct towards completing the mission. Pilots that are unable to overcome their fears will stop flying.
Adrenaline flows through the engines
“So you took off into the sky and say ‘okay, I need to do my best’, which is true on multiple levels. First and foremost to protect the co-pilot and myself and later you have to down the ‘MiG” that’s in front of you”, elaborates Lt. Col. Shalmon. “And besides that, if you fly 400 kilometers without trying to strike a target, you endangered yourself for nothing and didn’t achieve anything”, he jokes.
He described the feeling of an aerial battle like the fairytale “Alice Adventures in Wonderland. You’re chasing while being chased and you shoot while you’re being shot at. As if you’re in a strange dance in which you go up and down”.
Right after the battle, when the danger shifts, he explains a completely different feeling.
“The feeling is a good one, the feeling that you’ve won, that you’ve accomplished what was expected of you, once you’re on ground you’ll celebrate with your friends, but in the meantime, on to the next target”.