Aerial refueling is an important strategic capability for the IAF. Combat and transport squadrons met this week for a joint ground practice before taking off to practice in the air
Shachar Zorani | Translation: Eden Sharon
In order to execute a long-distance operation outside the borders of Israel, it is not enough to have well-trained combat pilots, advanced jets and remarkable flight skills. The IAF, which serves as the long arm of Israel in the world, must have an additional capability: the ability to refuel its jets while flying, for which the IAF uses its Boeing 707 planes.
As part of the close cooperation between the combat and transport formations, squadrons from the two formations met last week for a ground training for aerial refueling. Teams from the “Valley” and the “Knights of the Twin Tail” squadrons went southward to the “Desert Giants” squadron in Nevatim Airbase, and met with the aircrew members who sit in the cockpit of the Boeing 707 and in charge of the aerial refueling action. During the training, the combat teams face many situations, one of which is the aerial refueling. “Refueling an airplane is a highly complex mission, both for the combat aircrew members and for us the flight engineers”, said Major Yo’av, a flight engineer from the “Desert giants” squadron. “The aircrew members must understand the airspace around them, fly carefully and manage a high level of attention. The training on the ground prepares them for the moment of truth in air”.
Means to An End
The aim of the workshop, during which the teams saw firsthand the Boeing 707 and its systems, is to qualify the aircrew members for aerial refueling. Next time, they will be facing the real thing and experience the refueling process from the cockpit of a jet fighter. They will carry out a number of practice sorties during daylight and nighttime. “We put the emphasis on safety”, explained Major Yo’av. “The aircrew members must remember that the refueling is a means to an end and not the end itself – but when are given the mission everything else turns irrelevant and they must focus only on the refueling”.
In the past, the combat aircrew members faced aerial refueling for the first time in the air. After two serious refueling accidents which occurred over a decade ago, it was decided to incorporate the ground refueling training. At this stage, the aircrew members study the theoretical side of aerial refueling and receive important emphases and safety instructions. They watch illustrative videos, learn relevant terms and study the Boeing 707 and its refueling methods. Major Yo’av concluded: “Being exposed to the refueling systems, and meeting with the person on the other side of the mission create a better connection and safer cooperation”.