“Every squadron focuses on its specific attack missions, but from here we can see dozens of airplanes at the same time”
Control units have to manage air traffic, skies filled with aircraft
“The controller communicates directly with the pilot along the way” A thousand targets and dozens of aircraft above one of the most dense areas in the world. Operation “Pillar of Defense” provides more complex challenges for the IAF Control Formations than ever before
Shani Poms and Tal Michael
Every IAF attack at the Gaza Strip throughout the last few days was accompanied by lists of preparations: collecting intelligence above a target, forecasting flights, navigations toward the destination–all conclude with a well constructed attack mission. Gaza skies fill with combat airplanes, UAVs, intelligence collection aircrafts and combat helicopters, all have to be managed by the control units of the IAF.
“The area of the strip is very narrow, so there are many more planes than there is space. That’s why we have to make judgment calls to manage all the planes in the sky”, explains Captain Yaniv, Commander of the Traffic Control Division of the southern ATC unit. During the last few days, his unit has had to deal with an enormous amount of traffic that could count as a record since the days of operation Cast Lead. “Every squadron focuses on its specific attack missions, but from here we can see dozens of airplanes at the same time. The controller communicates directly with the pilot along the way, updating him and giving him intelligence information”.
“Making Sure Airplanes Stay Away from Iron Dome’s Range”
Aside of the large number of airplanes in the sky, Operation “Pillar of Defense” has integrated a new system that does not ease matters. “Working with Iron Dome is very complicated”, adds Captain Yaniv. “We have to make sure that airplanes and other aircraft don’t get hit during interceptions of the system”.
Unlike in other escalations, Iron Dome now has to deal with dozens of interceptions a day. “Pilots conduct their missions in various altitudes and we have to keep our eyes open so that none of them cross paths with the Iron Dome range. We want to have a minimum amount of limitations for the system and maximum roaming area for planes”.