101 years have passed since aerial fights (“dogfights”) were first conducted during World War I. But even today, after 30 years without a single dogfight, the IAF continues to prepare for such a scenario
23 July 1914, World War I breaks out. This war marked the beginning of military aviation, as it comprised the first air fights in history. Air fights have since become more sophisticated, designated weapons were developed and countless heroic stories were created over the years.
Despite of the fact that the last “dogfight” of the IAF took place 30 years ago, a major part of the combat squadrons training program is still dedicated to preparing for possible air battles.
“The Israeli Air Force is significantly more advanced than other air forces, yet we cannot overlook the development of the air forces around us”, states Major Lior, deputy commander of the “Negev” squadron which operates F-16I fighters. “The threat is still relevant and therefore all combat squadrons, whether they are targeted for attack missions or interception missions, prepare for it on a regular basis. At least 50 percent of training in the combat squadrons is dedicated to dogfights”.
IAF platforms hold advanced capabilities which will stand to their right in case of an aerial fight. The F-16I “Sufa” possess unique electronic capabilities, carrying highly advanced ammunition, excellent self-defense systems and broad aerial picture provided to the pilot by helmet-mounted display.
“Up until a few decades ago, dogfights included several aircraft at a time and were conducted in close ranges, requiring a pilot to get near the enemy aircraft and shoot it from a very close range”, says Major Lior. “In the modern age, since radar missile came into use, you can intercept an aircraft from a long distance”.
Physical Pressure Alongside Unpredictability
When practicing aerial battles, the pilot is required to operate under significant physical pressure generated by the aircraft maneuvers, as well as mental pressure.
“Dogfights will forever be conducted under uncertainty and the fact that you are fighting against an autonomous enemy makes the training challenging”, adds Major Lior. “Dogfight training does not only preserve that specific capability, but also enhances other skills such as decision making under pressure, distribution of attention and aerial orientation. Those skills are acquired during dogfight training but also relevant for other scenarios where the pilot must make quick and accurate decisions under similar conditions”.