Aerial Dilemmas Aerial Dilemmas Aerial Dilemmas In a seminar on operational flexibility held last week at the Ouvda airbase, pilots dealt with complex ethical questions that lacked clear-cut answers

David Greenwald

How does an aircrew member respond when he hears on the two-way radio that his wing-mate has abandoned his plane? Human instincts immediately kick in and demand that he work without hesitation to assist in rescuing his friend and bring him home safe and sound.

But, what should the pilot do if his gas tank is almost empty, his friend is in the middle of a dangerous area and he is dodging missiles and SAM batteries? Should the pilot follow guidelines, risk himself and maybe even his friends and go help protect his wing-mate?

The pilots of the “Knights of the Orange Tail”, “Knights of the North” and the “Bat” squadrons had to deal with similar dilemmas during a seminar on operational flexibility, a unique seminar held last week at the Ouvda airbase, the home base of the enemy-simulating “Flying Dragon” squadron, which did everything in its power to make it difficult for the other squadrons to execute their mission and forced them to think differently.

No Complete Answers

During the intense four-day seminar, the squadrons were presented with ethical questions, in which no decision could be made with 100% certainty. The pilots had to think quickly and deal with unfamiliar, unplanned situations, about which they were not previously briefed on the ground. “Even if after many flights you can tell if you acted correctly or not, this time around, after reaching the ground, you find yourself still undecided”, explains Major D’, the Deputy Commander of the “Knights of the Orange Tail” squadron.

Since the seminar was held for the first time in its current format, even the control unit, which takes part in most exercises as a secret partner, did not know what the next step would be and was just as surprised as the pilots. “We had to provide an answer to questions that don’t have just one answer. Even after the debriefing, we didn’t leave with complete answers to the questions we had to deal with”.

The seminar, which was held in southern Israel, actually simulated Israel’s northern frontier and the southern landscape became the skies above Syria and Lebanon.

“They were given a situation that, according to all procedures, requires a certain solution, but this time the pilots had to think ‘outside the box’ in order to come to a solution”, recalls Major Y’, deputy commander of the “Flying Dragon” squadron. “In most of the exercises, there is a clear solution to the problems and the challenge lies in successfully executing the mission. But these events that have no right answer are the hardest”.