Most of the IAF’s squadrons suspended their trainings with the beginning of Operation “Protective Edge”. Nonetheless, the squadrons that train the next generation of pilots continue their activity and the Operational Training Course in Nevatim Airbase is still running, while the instructors act also operational pilots throughout the operation
During combat operations, IAF’s routine trainings stop and the squadrons deal with operational missions such as airstrike, intelligence gathering and evacuations. However, the instructional activities must go on in order to train the new aircrews.
“Combining fighting and instruction is not an easy job”, says Major M’, Commander of the Operational Training Course (OTC) at the “Defenders of the South” Squadron.
The squadron, located at the southern Nevatim airbase, operates the veteran F-16 A/B fighter jets, which is not flown by the cadets at the pilot course. Because of the transition to new and improved platform, it was important that their training will not be affected by the operation.
“The instructional field is an integral part of an operational squadron involved with operational activity. During Operation “Protective Edge” the squadron has to deal with many dilemmas”, he says. “For example, there is a need for armed F-16s for both operational activity and trainings in the course and we had to decide where to concentrate the platforms”.
Fighting & Training
The limited number of fighter jets is not the only cause for dilemmas in the squadron: The course’s instructors are active fighter pilots themselves.
“We have to deal with our will to be here as instructors and our activity in the squadron that needs us for operational sorties”, adds Major M’, an active fighter pilot in the “Scorpion” squadron himself. “I’ve decided that each time when our cadets fly as part of the course, me and another instructor have to be here with them”, he explains how he settled the dilemma. “This situation requires a lot of flexibility, improvisation and dealing with changes”.
In addition to the physical location dilemma, whether to be in his squadron or with his cadets, he points to another complexity.
“There is a mental problem of moving from operational flight to instruction. Practice flights are much more strict and conservative. On the other hand, operational flight gives you much more freedom of action. The real danger is to bring that ‘open’ mentality to the instructional flights and therefore affect the cadets. We keep emphasizing the difference between policies in the debriefings. At the end of the day, especially when things around are unstable, we must be most careful when dealing with training”.