A unique bond has formed between the “Golden Eagle” and the “Negev” Squadrons: besides flying together, the squadrons are both participating in the Adir (F-35I) integration process. “The effectiveness of the exercises rises when we have other aircraft beside us.”
The Adir (F-35I) has been flying above Israel for over two months and the rumble of its engine has become a familiar sound. What you might not know is that the stealth fighter often flies beside the Sufa (F-16I) which was the IAF’s newest fighter aircraft until the Adir arrived. The mutual flight isn’t coincidental. In fact, the “Negev” Squadron, which operates the Sufa operates as an escort squadron to the “Golden Eagle” Squadron, which is in the process of integrating the Adir.
“The reason we decided to cooperate with an escort squadron was a lesson the USAF learned”, shared Lt. Col. Yotam, Commander of the “Golden Eagle” Squadron. “The Sufa jets fly alongside the Adir in almost every sortie. In fact, there are aircraft, aircrew members and technical crews from the ‘Negev’ squadron in Nevatim AFB at any given time in order to support us. It isn’t an easy operation, but the entire air force supports it”.
Effective Training, Better Decisions
There are currently only two Adir stealth fighters in the IAF and completion of flight formations with Sufa jets deeply contributes to the training exercise. “The effectiveness of the exercise rises when there are other aircraft beside us”, explained Lt. Col. Yotam. “Besides, we have another advantage – the ‘Negev’ Squadron is a double-seat squadron, so when we fly alongside the Sufa, we have a guide who escorts us in the sky”.
“The ‘Negev’ Squadron personnel are fully exposed to the secrets of the ‘Adir’ and are an inseparable part of the integration process”, he added. “We treat it as the wisdom of the crowd – as more people experience this special aircraft, the decisions we make, which will have a great impact on the IAF for years to come, will be better”.
Choosing the “Negev” Squadron to escort the “Golden Eagle” Squadron is a choice of great significance, as in comparison with other IAF platforms, its aircraft are the most similar to the Adir. Moreover, it was the first squadron to integrate the F-16I in February 2004. The fact that it is a double-seat squadron is also of great significance to the learning process. “In the Adir, we perform many actions that pilots usually do not, but Sufa WSOs do daily. We are utilizing this opportunity in order to learn certain actions from them, which are critical to operating the Adir”.
Despite the cooperation stemming from the desire to train the “Golden Eagle” Squadron’s pilots, the squadrons’ special bond is a two-way street. “Most of the scenarios we perform train the Sufa pilots as well”, explained Lt. Col. Yotam. “In addition, in the long run I am sure that this squadron will be the first to enjoy the fruits of change the Adir will bring, which are relevant to fourth generation fighters aircraft as well”.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: The US Air Force famously plans to operate its F-35As with F-22s – if enough are available – flying top cover.
The Israeli Air Force, which doesn’t have any F-22s, is now training with F-16Is to escort its F-35s.
This confirms, once and for all, that the F-35 is ill-equipped to fly combat missions without air-superiority fighters providing top cover, and puts paid to the various claims by its backers that it can survive alone.)