50 years have passed since Eitan Carmi climbed a combat plane for the very first time. The G-suit has been altered and the planes switched one after another. A meeting between him, a graduate of the “Bat” squadron and S’, a current combat navigator at the squadron, encompassed the past, present and future
Flying a combat plane without a pilot or steering an aircraft with one’s eyes are subjects not to be dismissed as science fiction, but as a matter of time. Technology is advancing in giant steps and we, the humans, are trying to keep up. When Major (Res.) Eitan Carmi, a former combat pilot, and captain S’, a current combat navigator meet, they both understand that there is one enemy that is not conquerable-time.
What has Changed?
“My hobby is flying”, begins Eitan Carmi. “I remember calling the squadron on my own and saying that I want to come fly today. I would take the car and arrive at the airbase. I don’t know how it works these days”. S’ responds with a smile, “That hasn’t changed at all”. But what has changed? The exercises have expanded, navigational capabilities have advanced, and ammunition matters have developed technologically.
“I think that the issue of practice is above all”, says Eitan. “In order to succeed in real-life, you have to practice at home before. We didn’t have such a thing, we didn’t arrive prepared enough”. S’ adds, “These days we already have simulators that we can practice on and there’s tremendous emphasis on the matter”.
The technology has also come a long way throughout the years. These days, at the touch of a button we can find ourselves on the right track. “In the Pilot Training Course we learned a navigational method using the stars”, says Eitan. “In order to navigate from France to Israel we needed a map, a watch and a compass. At 40 thousand feet we needed to trust our eyes. Only on the Kfir plane did I first encounter an organized system that includes a navigational system”. S’, on the other hand, does not see another option besides GPS technology. “We never learned such navigational skills. These days everything is simple. The navigation is based on GPS. Without it, our capabilities are more limited”.
These days, combat planes have various ammunition additions that have developed for various goals. “The level of electronics those days were not what there is today. The radar missiles arrived with the ‘Mirage’”, explains Eitan. “But the IAF quickly realized that those missiles are just extra weight, and in the Yom Kippur War the artillery improved immensely”. “Then you had to shoot the cannons and were responsible for the accuracy”, says S’, “When we talk about a target-lead missile it focuses on a goal and then the accuracy rates are much higher”.
No Replacing the Pilot
“The technology does the job these days”, explains Eitan, “We no longer have the competition of who’s the best pilot. Whoever is more technological, will have a higher chance of winning. The next war will be automatic”. Like in American movies, soon aircrafts won’t need a person to sit inside them, but there will be a person that controls them from afar. “You reach the limits of humanity”, says Eitan. “In the past the plane limited the person, and now the person limits the plane”.
Indeed, the means change throughout the years but the feeling of a person in the combat formation has stayed just the same. “The environmental factors have changed, the technology has advanced, but the person stays with the same feelings and dilemmas”, explains S’. “An air crew member in the combat formation needs to know how to function under pressuring situations at war”.