“We have to conduct this war in the most sterile way possible”
the pilots participate in the target-planning process, debrief on every mistake and verify every point of the mission The intense, protracted fighting of Operation “Protective Edge” presents commanders with a variety of dilemmas. How does a squadron commander keep the squadron alert? Should he fly or manage from the ground? How does one maintain a high level of morality in times of war? Two squadron commanders answer these questions in an interview with IAF Site
The aerial campaign during Operation “Protective Edge” is fraught with challenges: it is protracted, unpredictable and intense. Squadron commanders have to maneuver between several missions: managing the fighting in the squadron, going out on flights to conduct airstrikes by themselves and uniting the squadron around the goal. “We have to conduct this war in the most sterile way possible”, explains Lieutenant Colonel Matan, commander of the “Valley” squadron, which operates the two-seated F-16C/D. “We train the aircrews to be quick and focused and to work as quickly and as determined as possible. But during this campaign, we actually want to be patient and to ask more questions. Our most important goal at the moment is avoiding hitting civilians or hitting our forces on the ground. As a squadron commander, dealing with this goal while executing the missions that the IAF has to execute, raises many dilemmas”.
“We Don’t Take Shortcuts”
In addition to the missions with which the squadron commander is tasked, he must also know how to balance the massive amount of work and resting, so as not to exhaust his soldiers. “I have my soldiers execute missions with the routine mentality. During the fighting, things are more fast-paced, but we do not comprise on compliance with the procedures, we don’t take shortcuts and actually we are even stricter than usual”, explains Lieutenant Colonel Tomer, commander of the “Knights of the Orange Tail” squadron, which operates the F-16I.
Besides managing the missions and commanding all of the divisions of the squadron, most commanders of the force prefer flying out on airstrike missions, rather than stay on the ground. “When I fly, I get a better sense of the situation on the ground”, explains Lieutenant Colonel Tomer. “On average, I fly between two to four times a day- day and night. The rest of the time I participate in managing the fighting. This is the best example I can set for my soldiers”.
When the fighting is dynamic and on the one hand there is a timeout and on the other hand, you get back to work with full force, one of the challenges for the commanders is maintaining a daily routine for their soldiers. More importantly, they must brief the soldiers.”Once every three days, we gather the whole squadron, from the Technical Division to the cooks to the pilots and we show them everything. How do things look from the air? What is happening on the ground?” adds Lieutenant Colonel Tomer. “It is important that everyone be connected to the mission and that we work as one unit. Whoever prepares the food needs to know that he allows the pilots to work whenever they need to. Whoever hangs the bombs, needs to know the consequences of his job”.
Even the aircrews, both young and veteran, connect with the mission and nothing is done blindly: the pilots participate in the target-planning process, debrief on every mistake and verify every point of the mission. “We get to the control and planning stage in the mission and we understand the great lengths we have to go through to plan the mission efficiently and ethically. This increases the importance of these preparations”, adds Lieutenant Colonel Matan. “The challenge is to create a situation where soldiers don’t just fight perfunctorily, but rather with full understanding of the consequences”.