Alone in the Clouds
(Source: Israeli Air Force; issued Aug 01, 2017)
Last week, the "Hammers" Squadron’s new pilots flew an operational aircraft – the "Ra'am" (F-15I) – by themselves for the first time. "Flying a fighter jet worth millions of dollars, and landing it safely, is an accomplishment"

Lt. Dor is one of the "Hammers" Squadron's five new pilots, all of whom have now reached an important milestone with their first solo flight in an operational aircraft - the "Ra'am" (F-15I). Maj. G, Deputy Commander of the "Hammers" Squadron, said that two of the most memorable sorties in his career were his first solo flights, one in the "Barak" (F-16C/D), and one in the "Ra'am" (F-15I). "A first solo flight is something to learn a lot from – taking an operational fighter jet worth millions of dollars, flying it and landing it safely is an important milestone in an aircrew member’s career".

Conversion and Revision

The young aircrew members flew many aircraft prior to their arrival at the "Hammers" Squadron – namely, the "Snunit" (Grob G-120), the "Efroni" (T-6 Texan II) and the "Lavi" (M-346), with the last being the aircraft with which they specialized in combat flight in the "Flying Tiger" Squadron. However, in spite of the numerous flight hours and expansive knowledge gained at the Flight Academy, the pilots' conversion from an instructional aircraft to an operational fighter jet is a complex process which receives special attention in the squadron.

"We've been preparing for the arrival of our new pilots and WSOs, both professionally and socially, for six months", explained Capt. Gal, who is responsible for conversion training in the squadron. "The squadron's command underwent instructional training, in which they learned to fly the jet from the backseat. We also performed introduction flights with the young aircrew members, and updated our training program in accordance with the 'Lavi' pilots and WSOs’ capabilities".

Upon the integration of the “Lavi” (M-346) advanced instruction aircraft in the IAF, it was decided to completely revise IAF fighter pilot and WSO training. Today, the young aircrew members arrive at their operational squadrons after clocking many more flight hours, on the ground and in the air.

Lt. Col. Guy, Commander of the "Hammers" Squadron elaborated: "The pilots undergo a comprehensive training process in which they face missions similar to those performed in operational squadrons, so we added an emphasis on practical flight technique in our squadron’s conversion process. This is due to the core differences between the aircraft: the 'Lavi' is digital and forgiving, while the 'Ra'am' is the most complex aircraft to pilot and maneuver in the IAF”.


And just like that, their first solo flight was behind them. The rest of the squadron waited on the ground, with the pilots' excited friends and family members beside them. "We see ourselves as a family, and with five new airmen in our ranks, we've also taken in five new families", said Lt. Col. Guy, joined by the families of the new aircrew members. "We might be concluding your first two days in the squadron, but the quest has just begun, and the road is long".


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