In addition to attack missions, the fighter squadrons are also responsible for aerial photography missions: a quick flight high up above an area, and they take intelligence photographs from the air using photo accessories. But, how does an aircrew member go from being a fighter pilot to an intelligence photographer?
Without the intelligence behind the scenes, even the most complex machines and the best trained fighters are not enough to win the battle. Just as weapons of war have developed over the years, so intelligence technology has advanced and pushed the boundaries of the imagination with its capabilities.
The mission of the “Knights of the Orange Tail” fighter squadron from the Hatzerim airbase is to attack and to intercept, for the sake of protecting the skies of Israel, but in addition to this, it works on collecting intelligence from the air through a photography-mission no less complex. “Aircrews learn how to operate this beast we call an aerial camera”, explains Major Meir, Commander of the Photography Division of the squadron. “What effect does the wind have, why is altitude important, what does cloudiness do, and, of course, what about the physical operation of the cameras”.
This week, another round of cadets finished its photography training at the squadron, and more aircrews will take part in a complex mission, with the help of advanced F-16I planes, and will provide the whole IDF with aerial photos, which, as the saying goes, are worth a thousand words.
“Aerial photos are a central tool in the Intelligence Collection Division”, explains Lieutenant Colonel Amir, Commander of the “Knights of the Orange Tail” fighter squadron. “The squadron frequently goes out on operational reconnaissance missions at high altitudes, and over the last three years, and mission has become one of its main missions”
Speed Cameras-Not What You Though
During the training for the important mission, aircrews learn about the significance of aerial photography to the Intelligence Division, with special emphasis on certain points that will prepare them for the day they become qualified for the mission in the squadron. “Many operational considerations have to be taken into account arise during the photography missions”, adds Major Meir. “During the training, we focus on photography at different speeds and flying formations, and teach them about the operational environment and the intelligence in the area. Through instructional flights during the course, they practice this mission from A to Z: how an operational command in photography looks, how data is obtained and how to process it. After the aerial exercises, the aircrews are qualified for one of the most important intelligence missions today”.