Last week, the German air crew conversion training for the CH-53 (Yas'ur) helicopter in the IAF came to an end. This is the fourth time in which IAF trained German aircrew on the Yas'ur. The course was led by the "Night Riders" Squadron and took place over the last month and a half, in Palmachim and Tel-Nof AFBs.
"This IAF training offers different air transport platforms in which foreign air crews arrive in Israel to learn how to operate the platforms", explained Lt. Gilad. The German aircrew conversion course for the CH-53 (Yas'ur) began in 2012, which four German aircrews completed. "It began with the conversion of a few squadron commanders and German air force base commanders that came to examine the concept of training air crews in Israel due to a lack of instructors in the German Air Force, that are conducting operational activity in Afghanistan", explains Maj. Naftali, commander of the course from the "Night Riders" Squadron. "They were impressed by the effectiveness of the conversion course and in a meeting between the IAF Commander and the German Air Force Commander it was decided to conduct more courses in Israel".
From Germany to Tel-Nof
Towards the end of May, Second Lt. Niklas and Lt. Marc arrived in Israel. They are German helicopter pilots that completed flight school academy a year and a half ago and were placed in the "No. 1" Squadron in Helicopter Wing 64 in Laupheim AFB. "I think we were given an incredible opportunity to complete the conversion in Israel. We gained many experiences, not only in flight but also by getting to know the country, the people, the culture and the language", shared Lt. Marc. According to Second Lt. Niklas: "In addition to the German way of flying the CH-53, we learned the Israeli way. Thanks to the course we are getting more experience and our tool box is expanding. We are very happy to be here".
"The German aircrew completed a 120-hour course on the helicopters, 140 sorties on the simulator and a few night sorties", explains Maj. Naftali. "They arrive with the experience of a cadet in the middle of the last part of the IAF Flight Academy. They absorbed lots of knowledge in their operational squadrons but their flight experience is limited. In certain subjects, it was clear that they had great foundations such as in IFR Flight. They did not fly for six months prior to arriving in Israel, so we worked step-by-step. We received positive feedback from the Germans regarding pervious courses that took place in Israel and we made adjustments where we found necessary".
Learning the helicopter
The conversion course is divided to ground phase and aerial phase. The ground phase included the theoretical studies and the necessary information for operating the helicopter, its systems and sorties in the "Ya'sur" simulator. This stage took place in the Helicopter Instruction Center in Palmachim AFB, which all Israeli helicopter pilots go through during their training. The German aircrews conducted their first flight in the simulator which helped them gain basic skills such as starting and turning off the engine, take off, landing, hovering, practicing errors, basic emergency scenarios and instrument flight.
At the end of the ground phase, the aerial sortie phase in the "Night Riders" Squadron in Tel-Nof AFB began. They conducted different leveled sorties in the operational "Ya'sur" squadron, including night and day sorties. They started by training elementary level sorties and later trained for more difficult sorties.
The conversion course for foreign aircrew has quite a few challenges, especially when considering the language barrier and different cultures. Maj. Naftali explains that the cultural differences especially come into play during the debriefings phase. "After every sortie in the IAF, we sit for debrief - we check if we are achieving our goals and conclude what we need to improve. This process requires exposure and honesty. The goal is to let the Germans experience our way of debriefing because we know it brings results".
The German aircrew are expected to continue their conversion on the German CH-53, which is different from the Israeli helicopter. "The course proves that we are allies and that every time we train together, the friendship between the Israelis and Germans depends. It is good that we can exchange information between the forces, just as the Germans come to Israel, Israelis will also go to Germany", stated Lt. Marc. Second Lt. Niklas added: "It's amazing to see two nations with the same platform learn so much from one another, not only on how to fly the aircraft, but also about the work and the shared culture".