Though it has been years since the last time a pilot has had to abandon his combat airplane in enemy territory, the IAF still prepares for this scenario. This week, aerial units, intelligence people and 669 fighters gathered in order to coordinate the complex mission of rescuing a pilot from enemy territory. “A mission that could occur at any moment”
Lilach Gonen & Shir Aharon Bram | Photography: Lior Kestner
Rescuing a pilot from enemy territory is a complex mission that could make the difference between life and death. This week, all forces of the IAF that could participate in this sort of mission gathered at the Blackhawk “Rolling Sword” squadron in order to coordinate possible actions. “This could happen at any moment, even tomorrow morning”, says Major Baruch, Head of the Helicopter Division in the Aerial Formation. “We have to receive this critical information in a short time and prepare for the rescue mission as fast as possible. It’s like a race between us and the enemy”.
When it comes to aerial crews, making the decision to abandon the plane is made at a last resort, meaning that it will only be preformed when the plane was seriously damaged and there is no other option. Once the proper units have been notified of an abandonment situation, the IAF jumpstarts a whole row of actions with one goal: saving the pilot’s life. “Once the pilot abandoned his plane he is considered in distress”, explains Major Baruch, “We have to work in order to save him just like we would work for any other soldier”.
Come crunch time, when a pilot rescue mission begins, many other authorities like combat squadrons and helicopters, UAVs, Intelligence units and control units take part. When in the battlefield, the 669 Search & Rescue unit is rushed to the scene in a cargo helicopter and is responsible for the mission. In order to succeed in this complicated mission, all units will have to cooperate with each other, which sharpens the purpose of such practice seminars. “The significance of this day has been further revealed while we were practicing”, said Major Eyal, Deputy Commander of the Rolling Sword Squadron, which has countless rescue successes on its record. “We have improved the information updates between the various units that take part in the mission, and our joint exercise time will certainly benefit us during our next rescue mission”.