In most of the IAF’s training exercises, the way to victory is as important as the goal, but in the fighter division’s annual competition, the final result is what matters

Illy Pe’ery, Carmel Lahad and Noa Wollman

With no maps, radar and communications systems and with only one bomb on their wings: this was the starting point of the fighter division’s annual competition. The IAF’s fighter squadrons faced surprise elements, uncertainty and pressure in a “Six Day” War inspired scenario and a sortie in which they faced the threats of the northern arena. “The competition stands out in the IAF’s annual training program for its ability to create a stressful atmosphere in the squadrons that comes close to real war”, said Maj. Elad, Head of the Fighter Training Department in the Air Division.

Healthy Competition

Archive Photo

Fundamentals is the Name of the Game
Determined to come out victorious, the IAF’s fighter squadrons began preparing for the competition weeks in advance. From comprehensive testing of their aircraft and systems to preparing their aircrew members for possible scenarios. “The key to victory is meticulous preparation of the aircraft and of the people”, stated Maj. Ido, Deputy Commander of the “Hammers” Squadron, which operates the “Ra’am” (F-15I). “We checked all of the squadron’s aircraft and assembled ‘first team’”. Lt. Y, aircrew member from the “Valley” Squadron, which operates the “Barak” (F-16C/D) added: “We tried to deduce the scenarios we’ll face in the exercise from the little primary information we received and practiced similar missions”.

The first sortie in the competition was held in honor of 50 years to the “Six Day” War. In the sortie, the squadrons faced modern threats while they were forced to fly in conditions similar to the war – no weapons, radar or communication systems. As a result, the different platforms’ advantages and disadvantages were blurred, while strategy and fundamentals were emphasized. “We usually count on technological applications and improvements that our aircraft are equipped with and throughout the exercise we had to make do without them, a fact that allowed us to improve our foundations as pilots”, shared Lt. A, an aircrew member from the “Sufa” (F-16I) division. “The scenario shared certain similarities with operational mission we are familiar with and allowed us to train in warlike atmosphere”, added Maj. Ido.

Healthy Competition

Photo by: Ziv Koren

Get Into The Judges’ Heads
“This is a competition and differently to exercises in which we debrief the way we did things, here, we debrief the final result”, stated Maj. Elad. “The squadron’s performance level rises because everyone wants to win and be the best. Every year, the solutions become more creative and we invest more time on preparation for the sorties”, shared Lt. Y. “We did not know how the competition was going to be scored ahead of time, but we still tried to get into the judges’ heads in order to decide what to focus on”, added Capt. Itay, the competition leader from the “First Jet” Squadron, which operates the “Barak” (F-16C/D). “In the competition, there are challenges such as low altitude flight, surface air missile evasion, targeted strikes, air-air threats and eight aircraft formations”.

The arrival of the “Adir” (F-35I) to the IAF, set the bar much higher when regarding technological capabilities at the disposal of aircrew members. This begs the question, why is there a need to train for system-less flight in 2017? “There might be a situation in which aircraft will have to operate with no radar and that is why we make sure our aircrew members face extreme scenarios in the air”, answered Maj. Elad.

Who are the winner squadrons? The score is being tallied and the results of the competition are being calculated. The winning squadron will soon be announced.

Healthy Competition

Photo by: Maj. Ofer