These technicians undergo unique training and participate in aerial missions, both covert and routine
An important part of the job is done on the ground. The technicians take care of almost all the platforms related to heavy transport At the IAF’s Heavy Transport Division, you can find different kinds of jobs, one of which is the job of the special aerial technicians. These technicians undergo unique training and participate in aerial missions, both covert and routine, inside the Hercules C-130
The classic aircrew aboard a Hercules C-130 in the IAF includes a captain, a co-pilot, a flight engineer and a loading master. Nonetheless, on some of the flights, there is also a crew of special aerial technicians. They belong to the maintenance squadron of the Nevatim airbase in the Negev Desert.
“The job of special aerial technician is unique to our airbase because the IAF has jobs that are adjusted to platforms and missions. This job is one of them”, explains Major Alon, Weapon Division Commander at the Maintenance squadron at the airbase.
“An important part of the job is done on the ground. The technicians take care of almost all the platforms related to heavy transport, such as the Hercules C-130J, the Hercules C-130, the Boeing 707, the ‘Sea Scan’ or the ‘GulfStream’. They are actually responsible for everything have to do with armament and safety and rescue equipment on the line of transport platforms”.
The word “armament” might be misleading, as the platforms in question are heavy transport planes, not fighter jets; there are no “smart bombs” or missiles. Major Alon clarifies: “What’s meant by ‘armament’ is that the special aerial technicians maintain and prepare the self-defense systems of the platforms. In the field of safety equipment and rescue, they install and take apart equipment such as parachutes and masks, depending on the configuration of the plane and the operational order they receive from the squadron”.
Lighting Up The Sky
While the work of the special aerial technicians on the ground deals with heavy transport platforms, in the air their work is done only on Hercules C-130. “One of the aerial missions they are responsible for, is the use of flares”, says Major Alon. “By casting flares, we illuminate a specific area, such as the scene of a terrorist attack, the area of a rescue or the scene of a disaster. We are on alert to cast flares 365 days a year; we’re on alert from an hour before dusk to an hour after dawn”.
The ability to light up the sky has been tested in a number of incidents during recent years. “Our soldiers took part in sorties where flares were used during the terrorist attack on Route 12 on the Egyptian-Israeli border. For nine straight days, they operated the flare system and allowed ground forces to do their job on the ground”, recalls Major Alon. “During the forest fire on the Carmel Mountains, we used flares”, adds Major (res.) D., who was responsible for the special aerial technicians Department in the past. “What we saw there was well remembered. When we heard about the fire from the ground it was impossible to understand the magnitude and only when we saw it from above, did we understand the size and the enormity of the fire”.
There is another mission the special aerial technicians executed in the past above the fronts of different wars. “In the past, we were also responsible for distributing leaflets from Hercules C-130 to civilian areas, warning them of looming attacks. During Operation ‘Cast Lead’ and in the Second Lebanon War, we did this in an intense way even though today the mission is the responsibility of the Skyhawk A-4 fighters, but Hercules C-130 have advantages in this area: they can hold a large quantity of leaflets and the accuracy is high because the plane flies at a suitable speed”.