Last week, various IAF divisions faced an extreme combat scenario as part of a sky defense training exercise, in which they were required to prevent the penetration of hostile aircraft into Israeli airspace. “The threat we dealt with was advanced and complex, but in training it is best to prepare for the most difficult positions, so that in real time we will be able to deal with every scenario”, shared Lt. Col. Oren, head of the Fighter, ATC and Aerial Defense Training Branch.
How does the IAF deal with an escalating and complex combat scenarios? Cooperation. Maintaining a tight and synchronized connection between the various elements participating in the sky defense mission is the only way to foil elements threatening Israel’s skies, as each division has an integral part in the decision-making process. Lt. Col. Oren explained that the exercise’s scenarios were designed so that each participating division would be able to do its part in the sky defense mission. “In this exercise, we held mutual briefings and debriefing for the first time and as a result, each element understood the others’ roles. Everyone knew how to deal with each other’s needs, how to help each other, how to improve and what to maintain”.
The IAF has a number of ways to intercept aircraft penetrating Israeli airspace: SAM (Surface-Air-Missiles) batteries and aerial interception via fighter aircraft. The choice between the different weapons systems is made by the control station commander, who examines the target’s characteristics and relevant platforms to the mission, while maintaining tight communication with the ATC Unit. “During the exercise, we understood our capability to face advanced Air-Air threats, whose destruction requires a combination of a number of weapons systems”, shared Lt. Limor, an Air Traffic Controller and the exercise leader in the Southern ATC Unit. “We combined a SAM battery and fighter aircraft that provided a simultaneous response to different targets”.
Shoulder to Shoulder
Besides preparing the divisions for extreme combat scenarios, the training exercise was of heightened significance as it was the aerial defense division’s first official exercise under the training department. “Until now, the aerial defense division’s training exercises were either simulated or individual – battery vs. squadron”, testified Maj. Avi, Head of the Aerial Defense Training Section in the Training Department. “In emergency scenarios, we operate shoulder to shoulder and from this aspect, the mutual training exercise caused us to take a significant step up. We drew many operational conclusions and lessons regarding the framework of mutual exercises”.
Alongside the unique training exercise the aerial defense division underwent from the ground, a complex battle was being fought in the air: “Barak” (F-16C/D) “Sufa” (F-16I) and “Baz” (F-15) fighter jets defended Israel from the air while utilizing the differences between the platforms. “The mutual activity between the platforms conveyed the advantages and disadvantages of each aircraft, which we learned to cover”, shared Lt. Roey, a pilot from the “Valley” Squadron, which operates the “Barak”.
Cooperation between different squadrons and aircraft poses a number of challenges, whose solutions deepen the IAF squadron’s operational capabilities. “The differences between the aircraft create a unique language, each squadron operates by a different policy and operates different weapons”, explained Lt. Roei. “A training exercise such as this is a unique opportunity to rehearse the cooperation necessary in combat scenarios, which allows us to learn and draw conclusions. We usually train inside our squadrons, but in this type of exercises we have an opportunity to deal with the IAF’s challenges in a comprehensive matter”.