Meet the ATC Formation

The Gulfstream G-550, the airborne control unit

Photography: Offer Tzidon

Meet the ATC Formation

“Managing the skies”, controllers in action They keeps their eyes open 24/7. From northern Israel through the south, they keep a close look over every aircraft that roams the Israeli aerial territory, every odd activity or radar change. Introducing the formation that demonstrates how every target is above it all

Tal Michael

Very few people really know about the large activity range of the ATC (Air Traffic Control) Formation. Its members are humble, bases are distant, yet its job remains one of the most significant in the force. From morning to night they examine every aerial activity, direct military and civil airplanes–basically “Manage the sky”.

“The work around the ATC unit never stops”, explains Major (Res.) Gilad, a reserve duty controller of the northern ATC Formation. “Each unit has loads of work in its own work zone and at the same time our goals and principles are the same”. Each of the unit’s controllers deal with various subjects: Starting with managing the aerial traffic flow and on with managing the front in enemy borders during war.

The differences in the geographical locations of the units bring with them a variety of experiences. “We at the northern ATC unit are obviously more familiar with our difficulties. The mountains, hidden valleys and places in which we need to examine the picture more carefully. The southern unit has its own differences that make it unique, but you could say that one of the major differences is the operational background of each of the units”.

ATC Units are Prepared for Any Scenario

“The war has proven to us that we can withstand challenges that come our way”, says Gilad. “And mainly taught us how to really survive and function under uncertain circumstances and severe stress”. From the other side of the country, the southern ATC unit battles challenges every day or two, which allow it an advantage in an entirely different field. “The south is the largest practice area in the country. Even though it is so large in our terms, it is still objectively small and requires us to deal with dozens of planes in the air at the same time”, explains Major Yaniv, Commander of Traffic at the unit. “Almost daily, we manage the heavy aircraft traffic even above the Gaza Strip. No doubt that the south is also prepared for any scenario”.

And what happens far away from the state’s borders? How does the ATC formation keep an eye on IAF planes operating in places that cannot be mentioned? Fear not, a solution for that has been found. “In faraway places, we perform our job from the belly of the Gulfstream G-550 plane”, explains Major Nimrod, Commander of the Control Division of the “Nachshon” squadron. “We’re an ATC unit in the air. Several people sit together in the plane, and manage the traffic of IAF planes operating way beyond the horizon”.