The modern fighter jet technology and the integration of the Italian “Lavi” (M-346) instruction jet have caused the IAF to take a second look at the functions and training method of WSOs. From now on: a six month course upon graduation from the IAF Flight Academy before joining operational squadrons
Upon the integration of the “Lavi” (M-346) instruction jet in the IAF, a new perception developed according to which WSO will also undergo a training period in the IAF’s instruction squadron: OWTC (Operational WSO Training Course) a six month long intermediate stage between flight course and integration in the IAF’s operational fighter squadrons. The first class of WSOs to participate in the new program were the graduates of flight course number 172 which ended this past June.
“The WSOs will be part of the squadron for six months which will improve their grasp of the basics of flight”, emphasized Lt. Col. Tal, Commander of the “Flying Tiger” Squadron which also hosts the Operational Training Course and the Advanced Operational Training Course. “They will rehearse the basics of Air-Air and Air-Surface while emphasizing the role of the WSO and team work in basic scenarios and will receive a unique new type of training which will better prepare them for the real work in the squadron. There is no doubt that this is a revolution in the crews’ level of preparedness for the modern battlefield”.
A Significant Rise in the Number of Tactical Sorties
After two and a half years in the IAF Flight Academy, the WSOs begin the advanced stage of their training. The flight is divided into two parts, they begin their training on an “Efroni” (T-6 Texan) and then transition to flying on the “Lavi” and partner up with pilots who are in their Operational Training Course. The connection between the pilots and WSOs and the strengthening of the cooperation between them are very important at this early stage.
“The WSOs arrive at their squadrons following 135 tactical sorties, about 4 or 5 times the number of sorties they perform in the advanced stage of Flight School”, explained Capt. Amit, an instructor in the “Flying Tiger” Squadron.
“The ‘Lavi’ is equipped with systems similar to the ones in the operational fighter jets, so the WSOs get the opportunity to familiarize themselves with them in the OWTC. In addition, simulators provide us with new opportunities today: besides emergency and instrument sorties, there is the option of practicing different kinds of missions and simulating flight in formation and facing the enemy”, he shared. “Part of the sorties that the WSOs perform in the simulator are held in the front seat, so they also help them understand the pilot’s limitations and feeling and how to assist him in the air and in real time. Simultaneously, we build another important component in every aircrew member’s activity – confidence, which impacts the WSO’s affectivity in the aircraft and the success of the mission”.
WSOs in the Fifth Generation Era
Why now? It seems as if this was an obvious change that should have happened upon the integration of the F-16 and F-15 jets in the IAF. Why now, with the arrival of the single seated “Adir” (F-35I) which is equipped with autonomous systems upon us?
“In light of the fact that there are so many means in the technological age, we must fulfill this concept. Today, we are limited in time, not in ability”, said Maj. Danny, Head of the Fighter Training Department in the Air Division. “The IAF will still consist of 50% two-seater aircraft in the fifth-gen era and the missions will be different. So we still have a large amount of WSOs to train”.