After UAV operators finish their Operator Course, which is a six-month basic training course for UAV operation, they undergo their Operational Training Course in Palmahim AFB. The course used to be held at the different operational squadrons according to the operators' platforms.
The course was later expanded so as to include all UAV cadets and provide them with an intensive and unified instruction. The integration of the separate courses into the Operational Training Course is a part of a larger attempt by the Division to transfer certain training courses from their squadrons to the UAV School, seeing as it specializes in instruction and not in operational activity.
The Operational Training Course occurs at the culmination of the cadets' training, and is meant to provide them with the knowledge they need during their operational activity and enable them to apply the instructional elements they'd learned in their basic training. "The Operator Course is a basic period in which the cadets are provided with the primary tools to operate a UAV. They learn how to operate it, how to handle malfunctions and emergencies and how to perform the division's most basic tasks", said Capt. Shahar, Commander of the Operational Training Course. "During the Operational Training Course, the cadets learn how to think operationally. We teach them everything that surrounds the mission – the different operation commands, predestinated combat doctrines for certain scenarios, operational procedures, who supplies the squadron with the missions and how the IAF actually works".
During the course, the cadets perform sorties different to those they'd performed in the Operator Course and the instructors who sat beside them in the mission station take a step back to simply oversee them. "I learned how to fly the UAV during my instruction as an operator. In the Operational Training Course, all this knowledge coalesces into an operational mission", said Lt. Yohai, an operator in the last course. "When we start working with additional instruments and executing entire missions, we realize how significant the division is and how each action we perform affects the system".
"The Operational Training Course's challenges are more personal, mental and relative to the operator's character", emphasized Capt. Shahar. "Teamwork in the mission station demands them to adjust themselves to the different crew members and deal with the missions' pressure. We expect the operators to achieve what's demanded of them at every stage. Unlike other divisions in the IDF, the UAV Division is a considerably young division and not everyone knows how to operate us correctly. This is why we teach the course's cadets to see how they can use the instrument at hand to contribute to the situation they are in".
Capt. Shahar explains that the UAV is changing and developing from day to day, and the course's framework is adjusted according to the operational squadrons. "We adjust the course's content to the division's needs, whether it's aerial content or whether it regards ground operations. The battlefield is changing, and we're obligated to train the cadets according to the current struggles in the operational world. There are large teams whose job is to examine the role of the UAV operator in the air force across a variety of subjects, among which is the length of their training. It is very reasonable that we'll elongate the operator's training length in the near future, from the Operator Course to the Operational Training Course".
From the Classroom to the Mission Station
The cadets experiment in various missions throughout the course as to be prepared for their first operational flight. The course includes instructional series on intelligence, combat during routine situations, leadership workshops and tours around the IAF's bases. In addition, the cadets learn how to handle heavy tiredness, understand their responsibility during combat and undergo a mental preparedness workshop which simulates unplanned events. Likewise, they visit the Army's bases and are briefed by the force's intelligence service members regarding the current changes in our area.
"What's unique about this division is that as soon as the operators reach the squadrons, they immediately enter the mission stations and perform operational activity in all theaters", concluded Capt. Shahar. "The IAF heavily relies on the UAV Division today, and the new operators will experience this as they go".