Last week, Tel Nof Airbase prepared for war in the northern and southern fronts, dispatching sorties under missiles barrages. See the photos here
David Greenwald | Photography: Mor Tzidon | Translation: Ofri Aharon
One could hear the “sounds of war” from Tel Nof Airbase this past week. Along with loud sirens, hundreds of combat aircraft and UAV take-offs, the following sentence was repeated – “Please enter sheltered area, the airbase is under missiles attack”. This was done within a wide-scale training exercise that the base conducted in the beginning of last week, in which the soldiers simulated war in the northern and southern fronts. “We understand that the enemy is preparing for war, so we are preparing accordingly”, explains Maj. Oren, the officer that led the exercise and airborne electronic warfare operator. “This is a big training exercise that is part of a big process on base and in the IAF, that deals with missiles launched toward airbases as a realistic scenario that we must be prepared for and must know how to continue functioning simultaneously. We are training for a defense and attack response in complicated and intensive war scenarios”.
The scenarios the squadrons prepared for were varied as F-15s conducted attacks, the “Heron TP” collected intelligence, the electronic warfare unit conducted missions and the CH-53 helicopters flew forces and evacuated injured. “We are practicing all the missions we will conduct in war and are doing so with absolute uncertainty”, shared Deputy Avishai, a pilot in the “Nocturnal Birds” Squadron. “Many changes occur throughout the day. One moment we are planning and the next we’re investigating. All of this under rockets and missiles fire on the base. It makes the exercise much more than a challenge and closer to reality”.
Within the hour that the combatants conducted the aerial missions, the ground crews did not stop working for a minute: the technicians worked in the factories and the hangar in order to arm the aircraft and prepare them for take-off and shorten the amount of time the aircraft stay on base. The absorption scenarios were also varied and simulated the return of a helicopter with a burning engine and with a missile that fell on track and stopped its operation, as control tower continuing to send out operational sorties.
“This training exercise is considered the greatest professional challenge apart from war in which we are testing our abilities”, shared Deputy Yuval Etinger, flight controller in Tel-Nof Airbase. “We worked 24/7 and stay focused even when we’re tired. Even during ‘Code Red’, the flight controllers stay in the towers, because they are responsible for identifying crashes and operating the process”.
Photo by: Hagar Amibar