Lights in the Sky Simulating Missiles
Lighting the Skies with Fireworks. The Enemy Simulation Division In honor of “Hanukkah”, the holiday of lights, we set out to find what the IAF does to banish the dark. How do pilots see at night? And when do we use fireworks? No worries, the sophisticated modern-day solutions are much more efficient than biblical-era fire
Tal Michael and IAF Website Correspondents
A moment before the Hanukkah celebrations, in the heart of the quiet desert and deep darkness, three soldiers stand and wait for a signal. They wait for a communication-signal that will permit them to shoot in the direction of an Israeli plane or helicopter circling the skies, completely changing the flight scenario for the pilot up in the air.
Shells and Rockets are not used, instead, the soldiers launch fireworks. The green, red and yellow colors in the sky are misleading, as the fireworks are not designated for a party or celebration but for an entirely different purpose. The fireworks are launched by the “Enemy Simulation Division” toward the aircrafts practicing in the night skies, simulating Surface to Air missiles together with unique radar of the Aerial Defense Formation.
“These fireworks catch the pilots by surprise”, said Captain Elior Arviv, an Operational Officer at the Enemy Simulation Division. “On every flight there’s a pilot who knows what’s really about to happen and he updates us on the plane’s progress toward the point of interest”.
So how does everything actually happen? Night exercises are a routine that pilots repeat once in a while in order to improve their flight skills and maintain their existing ones. But when a firework simulating an enemy missile is fired toward them, everything goes haywire.
“Every time it happens at a different point”, describes Captain Arviv. “A group of three people including an officer, a driver and a medic go to predetermined point from which the firework will be launched”.
In the words of Second Lieutenant Limor Tessma, an officer in the division, the action-filled atmosphere is what caused her to love her role so much, “when you’re really out in the field, there’s a combat atmosphere”, she says. “When you see the speed of the firework you get a rush of adrenaline”.
What about the Pilots above? Don’t worry, they can even see through the nighttime. Two different systems are installed in the airplanes and helicopters of the IAF, allowing pilots to observe the ground beneath them and the different threats even in the darkest nights.
One of the main methods for nighttime vision is the “FLIR” system which is installed in most combat helicopters. The special camera is placed at the tip of the aircraft and turns towards the direction in which the pilot is looking. This way, the pilot can see what is going on around the aircraft and even beneath him. When the pilot comes close to landing and looks down he can see the nearing ground.
There is another system called the “Journal” -an observation method which is placed on the Pilot’s helmet. It boosts and strengthens the stars’ light in the night sky and allows the pilot to see in one eye what is happening in the darkness and in the other to keep looking forward.
In the 24/7 operative force you have to keep the darkness out all year long, guaranteeing that even the darkest night be the brightest. And now, we can only wish you a Happy Hanukkah!