From an enemy fighter jet crossing the Israeli border to terrorist penetration of Israeli villages via tunnels: in a number of recent training exercises, the IAF’s fighter jet, UAV and surveillance squadrons, all faced these scenarios
Vered Talala & Nadav Shaham | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida
In the center of the training exercise stood a scenario which simulated the penetration of terrorists from the Gaza Strip into an Israeli village near the border through a tunnel. The UAV and surveillance squadron’s first challenge was to locate the penetrators in the crowded area and obtain the intelligence necessary to neutralize the threat before they hurt any civilians. A short time later, an “Eitan” (Heron TP) UAV was already above the terrorists, which consisted of ten attackers who were driving straight into the heart of one of the villages in the area, equipped with weapons.
“The ‘Eitan’ flies very high and can see far away, so I can control everything happening in the field”, explained Second Lt. Rom, the exercise leader from the “White Eagle” Squadron. “Decision making in this kind of scenario is difficult because we have to identify the attacker’s movement and distinguish between their movement and different movement in the area. There is no room for mistakes here, so we have to be very precise and professional”.
Photography: Mor Tzidon
“We will operate as we trained”
The squadrons that operate “Hermes 450” and “Eitan” UAV’s utilized the exercise to strengthen their operational cooperation, as a result of the understanding that optimal relations are a significant part of completing the mission. The different UAV Operators had the opportunity to share knowledge and learn from one another, were exposed to one another’s abilities in order to promise the cooperation that will help reach the required operational goal.
“It is a unique exercise because these squadrons do not usually train together”, explained Second Lt. Tal, a UAV operator from the UAV Squadron that operates the “Hermes 450”.. “Many of our teams were exposed to the ‘Eitan’ UAV’s surveillance abilities for the first time and we performed the mission together. The teams had to divide the work between them and find creative solutions for the complex scenario. In these types of scenarios the operator is required to prioritize events and make split second decisions”.
Photography: Mor Tzidon
One of the IAF’s focal points of training in 2016 is operational flexibility and combat in uncertainty. While the UAV and surveillance squadrons rehearsed scenarios that might occur without warning, the “Edge of the Spear” Squadron that operates the “Baz” (F-15) and the “First Jet” and “First Fighter” Squadrons that operate the “Barak” (F-16C/D) examined their reactions to operational scenarios laced with uncertainty.
One of the scenarios simulated an enemy fighter jet attempting to attack a target in Israel from far away via precise weaponry. “We divided our reaction to unplanned events into three stages: identification, analysis and execution”, explained Capt. Michael, the exercise leader from the “Edge of the Spear” Squadron. “In the exercise’s first sortie, we focused on the first stages, identification and analysis. The aircrews had to identify the changes in intelligence and analyze what they needed to change in the air accordingly, such as changing the method of patrol and executing it accordingly. Preparedness for unplanned scenarios is very important, especially in current times, because in war, you can’t plan and know everything in advance”.