A large variety of missions are performed from the IAF’s UAV mission stations. Meet the officers who lead the UAV crews in routine and emergency missions and who represent the IAF’s policy in the field
Eitam Almadon & Nadav Shaham
Unbeknownst to most, similarly to missions performed by more than one fighter aircraft, in which a leading aircraft is appointed, each UAV mission station has its own chain of command. Alongside the operator in control sits a senior operator who serves as the mission commander and is responsible for the aircraft, the operator beside him and mission itself. “The operator will usually be the one who flies the aircraft and operates its systems and the mission commander will be the one responsible for the decision making, the mission’s commanding authority and if necessary will take control of the aircraft”, explained Lt. Daniel, a UAV mission commander.
“A heavy responsibility rests on the mission commanders shoulders. The role is even more challenging in combat, which required us to be extremely sharp. Everything is more sensitive and the sky is crowded, so we have to be constantly alert”, said Lt. Daniel.
Maj. Gil, a mission commander from the “White Eagle” Squadron, which operates the “Eitan” (Heron TP) UAV, added: “The mission commander is responsible for coordinating the communication with other aircraft operating simultaneously, the ground forces, operations and the control station”.
Photography: Mor Tzidon
Maturity, Responsibility, Experience and Discretion
After a year in the squadron, the UAV operators designated to become mission commanders undergo a three month course which trains them for the position. Throughout the course, they study theoretical material and improve their knowledge of the UAV’s complex technological systems.
“The mission commander is responsible for the safety of the aircraft and for managing the mission. In comparison to other IAF divisions, it’s quite similar to pilot and co-pilot in the transport helicopter division”, said Maj. Gil. “As a mission commander I am required to demonstrate maturity, responsibility, experience and discretion”.