It is an irregular occurrence, when IAF bases that routinely work together, become enemies. For the first time, the two-sided or “Blue Vs Blue” training method was performed in a base Vs base format and both bases rose to the occasion by demonstrating supreme creativity and doing everything in order to win
Vered Talala & Nadav Shaham
For the first time, Tel-Nof AFB and Ramon AFB held a mutual training exercise in which they fought one against the other in the Blue v Blue training method. This method surprises the aircrews, forces them to utilize creative thinking and requires split-second decisions. “The method challenges the crews and is considered an ‘extreme exercise’. They do not know what the enemy’s next step will be, so they are obligated to utilize a different way of thinking”, explained Maj. Elad, Head of the Fighter Training Department.
Outside the Box
The exercise’s main goal is to simulate war in a tangible manner and as such, the scenarios the trainees faces were original and surprising. The targets were trucks driving on a route that the aircrews did not know in advance. In addition, each base attempted to attack the other’s control tower, the ATC Unit cooperating with the enemy and the squadron buildings. If they managed to attack the opposing ATC unit, the opposing base’s ATC was disabled for ten minutes; as a result, the participants also had to devote time and attention to defense.
“When you have to attack and want to put yourself in the best position in relation to the target, but 50 km away there is someone closing in on you fast that wants to shoot you down as much as you want to attack the target in his area, you feel threatened in the deepest sense. Someone is fighting against you in full throttle without cutting you any slack”, shared Maj. Y, Deputy Commander of the “Bat” Squadron, which leads the training method in the IAF.
“Exercises in the IAF focus on the professional aspect – flight in formation and correct operation of the bombs and missiles. Such a strong feeling of threat is relatively rare. You have to remember that war is more than technique, it is attitude and mentality. Competitiveness, drive, pressure, struggle and combativeness make us think outside of the box”.
Differently to former exercises that were performed like work-shops in which only fighter jets participated, in the current exercise things were very different. Tel-Nof AFB activated the operational units positioned on base that all pitched in and fought to end up victorious. The “White Eagle” Squadron that operates the “Eitan” (Heron TP) UAV provided surveillance of the arena and directed the fighter jets to their targets in real time. SAR Unit 669 operators participated in intelligence gathering and the “Knights of the Twin Tail” Squadron that operates the “Baz” (F-15) performed defense sorties while the “Edge of the Spear” Squadron performed attack missions.
Opposite them stood Ramon AFB: the advanced “Sufa” (F-16I) Squadrons patrolled the skies, attacked platforms that Tel-Nof AFB operated such as SAM Batteries and tried to shoot down as many “Baz” jets as they could. In addition to attacks, the AFB’s combat helicopters directed their jets toward their targets throughout the exercise. “The planning and control process was up the bases, they erected control stations that the AFB Commanders managed”, added Maj. Elad.
Preparing for Victory
As a result of the deep desire to win, the bases prepared accordingly. They meticulously planned the strikes, used cyber abilities against the opposing base and even sent false messages in order to deceive their enemy. “The ground preparation for the exercise was greater than for other exercises”, said Lt. Yaniv, the exercise leader in the “Edge of the Spear” Squadron. “We usually deal more with our performance abilities but in Blue v Blue exercise we are measured not only according to our performance abilities, but also according to what we choose to do with the infrastructure at hand. We allocated preparation time to planning and developing ways to deceive our enemy, according to the rules of course”.
According to Lt. Yaniv, the accepted forms of deceit are: cyber deceit, hacking into the enemy squadrons’ computers and operation systems and try to sabotage their efforts, or aerial deceit: “such as, sending jets to occupy one side and penetrating their defenses from the other side and executing an important strike”.
The AFB personnel did everything they could in order to win and the points are currently being tallied. The victorious base will be declared soon.