Last week, the “Valley” Squadron trained in the Mission Training Center in Hatzor AFB

Carmel Lahad

Last week, the Ramat-David based “Valley” Squadron took a trip down south to “Hatzor” AFB for a training exercise in the Mission Training Center. The Squadron, which operates double seat “Barak” (F-16C/D) jets visits the advanced simulator four times a year, in order to rehearse various aerial scenarios without actually taking off. “During the week, we trained for operational scenarios in the northern theatre”, shared Lt. Omer, a WSO from the “Valley” Squadron.

The Mission Training Center consists of round stations, each surrounded by a 360 degree display which accurately simulates the operational environment the air crew members rehearse. “Training in the MTC allows us to rehearse extreme scenarios”, explained Lt. Omer. “Because it is a simulator we can train for scenarios such as SAM (Surface- Air Missile) battery threatened flight, air-air combat and low altitude flight. In reality, we are restricted when it comes to training for these scenarios because of the risk entailed”.

Two Feet on the Ground

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Together in the Cockpit
In each of the simulator sorties, the aircrew members receive both individual and mutual training which illustrates the importance of cooperation in the cockpit. “In the most abstract sense, the division of roles between the pilot and WSO is that the pilot is responsible for flying the aircraft and air-air combat, while the WSO is responsible for guided and autonomous air-ground armament”, explained Lt. Omer. “Despite the division of roles, we work and plan the mission together”. Each sortie is performed differently and according to Lt. Omer, it is difficult to understand the meaning of the differences without experiencing the cooperation in the cockpit. “We support each other fully, but there are complex missions in which we divide the cockpit and work separately”.

The advantages of two aircrew members in the cockpit are clear. “When there are two people planning every mission, the work can be divided and as a result the attention to details rises”, explained Lt. Omer. “In addition, when dilemmas arise, you have someone to consult in the cockpit and in the formation”. Lt. Omer testified that there are also challenges to working in a team. “The two aircrew members need to work in full attention so if the teamwork isn’t optimal, some details might be missed”.

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The Future
Not all IAF Fighter Squadrons include pilots and WSOs. How are missions divided between the single seat and double seat squadrons? “In routine security missions there isn’t a significant difference, but each squadron has different weapons systems so there are specific missions in which certain squadrons will be chosen above others. These systems are also dependent on the presence of a WSO in the cockpit”, stated Lt. Omer. When asked about his expectations for the future of WSOs, he answered confidently: “Most IAF fighter squadrons are double seat, so I expect WSOs to continue serving in their position for many years to come”. 

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