The IAF’s helicopter squadrons and 669 SAR (Search & Rescue) Unit performed a sequence of training sorties over the Mediterranean Sea. They practiced the rescue of civilians and soldiers from inside vessels and from the water
Nadav Berger | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer-Zubida
Last week, the IAF helicopter squadrons operating the Sikorsky CH-53 (“Yasur”) Blackhawk (“Yanshuf”) and Panther (“Atalef”) helicopters took part in a naval rescue training exercise in cooperation with 669 SAR(Search & Rescue) Unit and the Israeli Navy. During the exercise, aircrew members, airborne mechanics and 669 combatants practiced different scenarios of soldiers and civilians rescue from sea.
The helicopter squadrons are on constant readiness for these scenarios, which they may encounter in a number of situations. “Rescue can involve civilians that need urgent evacuation from our territorial water and of soldiers on a navy vessel”, explains lieutenant S, a Blackhawk pilot from The “Rolling Sword” Squadron who led the exercise. “We can be dispatched to help an injured civilian or a sinking ship with a crew that needs rescuing”.
The different scenarios can be divided into two main fields: rescue from a vessel and rescue from open water. For instance, of a pilot who parachuted above water or of survivors whose ship sunk. During a rescue, the helicopter hovers above the vessel or survivor in the water, as one of the 669 combatants descends towards him, attaches himself to him and ascends back into the helicopter. “The main challenge in naval rescue is that when hovering over the survivors it is hard for the pilots to know how much they deviate from the survivor. When hovering over ground, it is possible to look at a specific object, a tree for example and see if you are moving towards or away from it. In the ocean on the other hand, everything looks the same and there is no point that you can compare yourself to”, says Lieutenant S. “This is why the individual that directs the pilots is the airborne mechanic who is located in the back of the helicopter and looks down at the target. This requires very gentle steering and excellent team work between the pilots and the airborne mechanic, because he is basically the aircrew’s eyes in these situations”.
Over the course of the week this was practiced by helicopter squadron pilots in mandatory service and reservists and 669 combatants. Time after time they went out to sea in order to improve their ability to carry out their mission and to improve their readiness for the moment of truth.