The IAF’s JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers) course, in which officers from the IAF and Ground Forces learn about each-others activity, is currently in progress. During the course, they traveled to Ramon AFB and learned how to direct attack helicopters to their targets
“The JTAC is the only professional who understands the IAF’s language in the ground forces’ operations rooms”, explained Capt. Josh, a “Yanshuf” (Blackhawk) helicopter pilot currently positioned in the IAF’s Cooperation Unit. Capt. Josh is also a trained JTAC, whose duty in combat is to connect and translate between the ground and aerial forces.
The Air Force and Ground Force officers have a mere two weeks to study each-others world and understand the best ways to connect the two. Last week, they all traveled to Ramon AFB and learned how to direct attack helicopters and how to utilize their close air support in order to attack a target in the field. This capability is one of many the JTACs are required to master, besides a thorough understanding of the Air Force's inner workings. “In combat, the JTACs aren’t positioned in the field in order to direct the helicopters, but they sometimes direct them to attack pre-determined targets”, elaborated Capt. Josh.
The Mission: Direct an Attack Helicopter to its Target
The future JTACs sat in the briefing room, faced by Lt. Gal, a “Peten” (AH64 Apache) pilot and cooperation officer in the “Magic Touch” Squadron. He showed them footage of helicopter attacks and explained everything they saw. “Each of these rounds is like a grenade that you throw in the field”, explained Maj. Sabag, who formerly served as an officer in the "Kfir" Infantry Brigade and currently serves in the IAF’s cooperation unit. “The difference is that here it is faster and more powerful”.
The cadets then congregated in order to receive their orders. Maj. Sabag displayed a map and declared: “Here are your targets, write all the information down”. Directing helicopters is divided into a number of stages: The first stage is consolidating the target and gathering information. Afterwards, the information is conveyed to the pilot. Then, the two connect and after making sure that they are referring to the same target, the attack is executed.
“It’s an interesting experience, what we see on the ground looks completely different in the pilot’s eyes”, shared Lt. Avihay Mor, a future JTAC from the infantry "Nahal" Brigade. “You are both certain that you are looking at the same thing and then, a few minutes of direction later, you understand that you are talking about different things. Once you understand that everything needs to be extremely precise, it all works well. It’s an experience that every JTAC needs to undergo at least once”.