Winter has arrived, and IAF squadrons are prepared for any evacuation needed. Read about the challenges of winter evacuations, how to overcome cloudiness and the cooperation of the IAF with the police rescue units
Nadav Berger | Translation: Eden Sharon
Winter is upon us, and with it comes the need for highly complex rescues and evacuations. Even though the rain arrived in Israel only a few days ago, the helicopters squadrons have been preparing for it for several weeks now. In order to understand the challenges of evacuating between low clouds, heavy raindrops and streaming rivers, we joined the “Rolling Sword” squadron for a wintery training exercise with the Black Hawk helicopters.
How to overcome cloudiness
The stormy weather almost always results in serious road accidents and hikers being trapped on trails – scenarios that require air evacuation. Access to the scene, however, gets harder and harder during severe weather. “Every evacuation requires either landing or hovering close to ground level”, says Captain M, a Black Hawk pilot who led the training. “During wintertime, the low altitudes in which we operate are very cloudy, which makes the mission much harder and more challenging”. The cloudiness makes it difficult for the pilots to see their surroundings and find the fastest way to the destination, and also makes it challenging to reach the required altitude.
According to the soldiers of the squadron, there are two main methods for overcoming cloudiness: the first is the track a “hole” in the clouds through which it is possible to descend to the required altitude and then fly below or around the layer of clouds to the evacuation point. The second way is cross the cloud downwards, using only the data from the systems and without actually seeing the ground until exiting the cloudy area. The aircrew members practiced these two methods, after experiencing stormy flights in a simulator.
Cooperating with the police
One of the main goals of the practice was improving the cooperation between the teams of the squadron and police rescue units. Once the national emergency centers receive a rescue call to evacuate a man who fell, got swept away in a flood, got dehydrated, or any other reason, the members of the local rescuing team arrive at the scene and start with the evacuation. “If we can’t reach the people and evacuate them, or when we are dealing with a case where the victim has suffered from severe wounds that might cause permanent damage, we contact the IAF and ask them to dispatch a helicopter to perform the evacuation”, explains Oren Arieli, Deputy Commander of the Arad rescuing team, who has and continues to serve on a voluntary basis for the past 18 years.
During the past five years, the connection between the sides has strengthened. When the squadrons are called out, the rescuing teams have already set up a command post in the field and are ready to direct the helicopter pilot to the destination.