The “First Jet” Squadron and the Northern ATC (Air Traffic Control) Unit joined forces last week and trained side by side for combat scenarios in the northern theatre. Throughout the exercise, the two operated according to the IDF’s ten principles of war. From the page to the battlefield
Vered Talala & Zohar Boneh | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida
Adherence to the mission, concentration of effort, continuity and succession are some of the principles of war the IDF and IAF adhere to especially in operational combat. While in most of the units of the IDF, the ten principle document is a placard on the wall, the “First Jet” Squadron, which operates the “Barak” (F-16C/D) fighter jet, took the document a step forward and performed an exercise which emphasized said principles.
Throughout the past week, the squadron members practiced different scenarios which simulated warfare. Faced by non-other than the “Flying Dragon” Squadron, the IAF’s “red” or aggressor squadron – the participants were required to implement the principles of war and win. “The ‘Flying Dragon’ squadron was a stronger enemy than we expect to deal with in real time”, said Capt. David, who was responsible for the exercise from the “First Jet” Squadron. “Each squadron had to attack as many targets as possible and down as many enemy aircraft as possible, while protecting the sky and making sure that its own forces aren’t shot down”.
Like in real time, the squadron trained for activity with a limited amount of munitions. In addition, if the enemy squadron managed to hit certain targets, which were, for the sake of the exercise, marked as a weapons depots, ATC Units or runways, the other squadron had to continue the exercise as if they were destroyed. In one of the cases, while the “Baraks” were in the air, they found out that the runways on their base were attacked and had to land in Ouvda AFB.
“The squadron was surprised by the development of the war. A day before the exercise began, we received an evaluation and had to prepare accordingly, including taking off for a training sortie for what was to come”, shared Capt. David. “Prepare for the worst: a significant SAM threat, ground units threats and a powerful aerial force fighting us”.
Controlling in the Field
As a part of the deepening of the cooperation between the ATC Division and Fighter Division personnel, two Air Traffic Controllers and two Aerial Photo Operators from the Northern ATC Unit took a significant part in the exercise. “As a part of the exercise, we safely directed the jets to the targets via the communication network and in practice, we communicated the aerial photo to them throughout the exercise”, shared Lt. Nissim, the exercise leader from the Northern ATC Unit.
Every mission that the aircrew members embarked on was closely controlled: opposite the screens in the control room, which display Israel’s skies, sat an air traffic controller who overlooked the aerial space in which the jets operated and as needed, conveyed critical data for the execution of the mission. “The pilot in the cockpit has to trust that the air traffic controller knows how to protect him and will notify him when there is a threat”, said Lt. Nissim. “We must convey the aerial photo to the aircrew in the best possible way, help the leader understand how many hostile aircraft there are in the air and point at the most threatening aircraft among them in order for them to be careful and intercept it”.
A good connection between the aircrews and the air traffic controller is absolutely necessary, since both sides carry mutual responsibility for the success of the mission. The exercise strengthened the cooperation between the two who had an opportunity to become familiar with the others work and reach insights that will contribute to their activity in real time. “The importance of the exercise is paramount for us because there aren’t many exercises such as this one in which the air traffic controller and aircrews sit together, brief, debrief and peek into each other’s worlds”, shared Lt. Nissim. “We were exposed to the aircrew member’s feelings and they understood what we expected from them in real time”.
Photography: Hagar Amibar