The IAF’s annual fighter jet division competition, in which all of the division’s squadrons compete head to head in different missions such as attacking targets, downing aircraft and building tactics under pressure and uncertainty, was held this week. “We think ‘outside the box’ and add relevant scenarios to the changing theatres”
Vered Talala, Tal GIladi & Nadav Shaham | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida
Flying high, flying low, north and south, attacking from above, defending from down low and preparing for the unknown: this is what the annual fighter jet division competition that was held this week, looked like.
“During the competition, the squadrons fly in basic and non-operational scenarios, but practice unplanned activities as operation under pressure, which are hard to train for daily when flying familiar scenarios”, explained Lt. Omri who led the competition in the “Hammers” Squadron, which operates the “Ra’am” (F-15I). “We can assume in advance that we will encounter different surprises in flight such as a SAM (Surface Air Missile) Ambush or a UAV that we will need to shoot down”.
Fitting of the competition which is held once a year and includes all of the fighter squadrons in the IAF, many resources are invested in it and make it all the more interesting and suspenseful. “Air strikes were a main mission in the past few competitions, but recently, we are thinking ‘outside the box’ and adding relevant scenarios to the changing theatre such as northern theatre scenarios and unplanned situations”, said Maj. Elad, Head of the Fighter and UAV Department of the Training Branch. “It is important to maintain the safety procedures in the competition, not to cross the pre-designated flight areas and avoid crashing”.
In the squadrons, nothing is left to chance and the preparations for the competition begin weeks in advance. “We held many Air-Air and Air-Ground exercises in preparation for the competition, we made sure that all of our jets were adjusted and chose the squadron’s best jets for the big day”, shared Lt. May, the competition leader in the “Knights of the Orange Tail” Squadron, which operated the “Sufa” (F-16I) jets.
We Chose the Greatest Jets for the Greatest Day
The saying, “looking for a needle in a haystack”, is very helpful when attempting to describe one of the missions the competitors faced this year – attacking targets without receiving accurate coordinates and working only with their eyes. “We received inaccurate coordinates”, said Lt. May. “The pilot usually sees the target in the aircraft’s systems, in data in his helmet and in the HUD. Accurate identification of the target requires cooperation in the cockpit”.
This mission strengthens the aircrew members’ ability to perform mission without relying on the aircraft systems and promises full function in the case of GPS scrambling. “This is a scenario which isn’t usually trained for, because the jets are fitted with advanced target identification abilities”, clarified Lt. Omri. “In their absence, we have methods of finding the target from very high up, based on certain geographical features”.
Getting Better, Cooperating, and Striving for Victory
The aircrew members of the “Edge of the Spear” and “Knights of the Twin Tail” Squadrons, which operate the “Baz” (F-15) were also alerted by the competitions sirens, after which they were seen running towards their jets, determined to return with a victorious smile.
The “Baz” jet can carry a great deal of munitions and its maneuvering abilities in aerial combat stand out among the IAF’s fighter jets and it is therefore considered an aerial supremacy aircraft. In this competition, the “Baz” pilots and WSOs set a goal for themselves: utilize the jets’ full potential and beat the F-16 squadrons.
“We arrived at the competition after a mutual preparation in the squadron which prepared us for the scenarios we might run into”, shared Lt. Amir from the “Edge of the Spear” Squadron, who participated in the competition. “When we received the information about the permitted height and targets, we thought about possible occurrences and responses and planned the flights so we would be on schedule and bring good results. It is safe to assume that in the next campaign, we will face some of the scenarios that were simulated in the competition and even if not – the competition is important, because through it we learn how to strengthen our abilities, work as a team and strive for victory together”.
The results of the competition are still being tallied; the winner will soon be announced.
I Spy With My Little Eye