“Our job is to decipher the picture from the trailer without wasting time”
UAV Championship is Underway The Euro League games have ended, and in the meantime the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle squadrons have begun their very own ‘World Cup’: competing in spotting various targets, navigating within the country’s borders and locating missile launching targets
Mai Efrat and Lya Shanel | Translation: Loren Mashiah
Concurrently with the thrilling competition between Spain and Italy for the World Cup, the UAV Squadrons were summoned for their own tournament. The Squadrons gathered their forces for a challenging day filled with exercise and competitive energy.
“It’s a very challenging mission to create training days for the UAV squadrons since they are all wrapped up with operational missions”, says Lieutenant Colonel Alon, Head of combat training and UAVs in the instruction department of the force. “In order for us to conduct an intense exercise, we had to really pull together every resource available. It was important for us to make this event happen since it gives the squadrons some pressure outlet after the intensification down south”.
If you’ve gotten the idea that the board is going to make it easy for the operators you’ve got it all wrong- ask them and they’ll say that the madness has just begun. The exercise began in the little hours of the morning before the birds could get a chance to twitter. “The first mission started at 6AM”, says Captain Yehara, head of the UAV and prediction department, “The second round will begin now, and will last five hours. It will include the main Squadron missions: locating missile launchers and launching links, navigations and directing”.
Watch Out for the Motorcycle!
If you passed through “Haviva” Hill on the day of the championship, you could have spotted a motorcycle on the side of the road. What he didn’t know is that in the eyes of the UAVs flying above he is seen as a dangerous terrorist who needs to be located rapidly. In a short while, fireworks which are supposed to look like rockets rise from behind the hill and made it clear beyond any doubt the significance of the mission.
“Simulating the enemy allows us to demonstrate various scenarios and dilemmas to the formations”, says Major Eyal head of Enemy Simulations Unit, which supervises the smoke and fire from the control cabin. “For example, if one of the ‘terrorists’ steps out of a vehicle- should we follow him or should we follow the vehicle?”.
Simultaneously, the operators have to face other challenges like problematic weather, communication difficulties and navigating without a GPS. “These are things we could potentially face during operations and we have to be prepared”, explains major Eyal.
Just like Soccer
Just like a real Euro League, the audience (or, in this case, members of the instruction department) is standing and screaming at the screen. “Let’s go, you’re so close! Don’t give up now!”, “Just a bit to the left… YES!”, I hear from every corner of the room. The enthusiasm might look a bit odd to someone who doesn’t understand the rules of the game and can only make out the trees and fields on the screen.
“We has to pass through different points in a limited time, we got from Atlit to Ramat HaGolan”, says First Lieutenant Matan of the ‘First UAV’ Squadron, who took part in the navigation take offs. “It was very difficult to find some of the targets since they were in a forested area”. Given the difficult conditions, would they succeed in a complicated operation? “Of course we did”, smiles Matan, “As UAV operators, our job is to make out a picture while sitting in the cabin without wasting any time, and we’re good at that. It’s like asking an infantry soldier if he knows how to shoot.”