In the upcoming decade, the RPAV Division is due to make a number of significant changes – increasing its number of operators and missions, while maintaining its significant part in the IAF’s operational activity.
The RPAV Division has grown over the past years, integrating various missions. Some of the division's capabilities known to the public include air support, direction of attack aircraft, reconnaissance and surveillance in all theatres. In May of 2016, an RPAV Division multiyear plan was approved, due to outline the division’s activity over the upcoming decade. The IAF has begun to implement the program, which is due to bring about a series of changes to the entire IAF.
"We expect the entire division to move forward and progress, from personnel, through aircraft and systems, to infrastructure", said Brig. Gen. N’, Commander of Palmahim AFB. "The number of RPAV operators in the IAF will grow and new squadrons will be established".
Mapping the Future
The multiyear plan is a long-term program meant to optimize the IAF’s progress and assure coherent force build-up and operation. "After certain goals were set, we mapped out the ways we could achieve them as comprehensively as possible in five years' time. The program creates a type of road map, which is made up of relatively small goals that will make a big difference", explained Maj. Y’, Head of the RPAV Unit. The program deals with various issues: personnel, operations, maintenance, instruction, organization and infrastructure.
A Very Quick Pace
The division's manpower, number of aircraft and capabilities are due to increase significantly. There will be a large increase in the RPAV and Surveillance Division's operational flight hours, and new RPAV squadrons will be established over the next seven years.
While aspiring to strengthen the RPAV division, the operational reality requires the IAF to maintain a flexible range of capabilities. As a result, the IAF will continue operating manned and unmanned aerial systems.
"Every division has a ‘road-map’ or multiyear plan", said Brig. Gen. N’. "The RPAV Division's need for such a plan is twofold. The division is progressing at a very quick pace, becoming more and more significant with each passing year. Therefore, our need for a comprehensive multiyear plan is critical. We revalidate the plan every six months while constantly integrating new systems".
The RPAV Division is responsible for one third of the IAF's flight hours and two thirds of its operational flight hours. More by more, significant missions previously performed by manned platforms are being performed by unmanned systems. For instance, reconnaissance missions performed currently performed by “Kukia” (Beechcraft King Air B-200) light transport aircraft will be performed by “Eitan” (Heron TP) RPAVs. As the responsibility for maritime patrol, which was once performed by "Shachaf" (Sea Scan), was assumed by "Shoval" (Heron 1) RPAVs.
"As a result of its growth, the RPAV Division needs more operators. In two to three years, we will need more people than the Flight Academy is able to provide us with", predicted Lt. Col. L’, Commander of the RPAV Academy. The number of RPAV operators is expected to double over the next ten years, and the number of cadets in the RPAV Academy will increase by 70%. "The operators of the next decade will be no different to today's operators", clarified Brig. Gen. N'. "They will perform similar missions, and only the weapons systems will be different and more advanced. The quality of personnel will determine the final result in every mission".
Less than 30% of the RPAV Division's flight hours are flown in training sorties. As part of the multiyear plan, the division aspires to reach its goal of 90% by upgrading simulators, establishing a Mission Training Center, and forming a designated multiyear plan for the RPAV Division's simulators.
"Instruction in the RPAV Division will be greatly influenced by the multiyear plan", elaborated Brig. Gen. Nimrod. "We will integrate designated platforms, as well as simulators meant to enable better instruction. There is great hidden potential in the field of simulators. When most of the division's flight hours will be flown in the simulators, we will be able to focalize the use of RPAVs on operational sorties".
"I have no doubt that RPAVs will be more and more significant as time goes by – not just for the IAF but for the entire world", concluded Brig. Gen. Nimrod. "We strive to be the best in the RPAV field. Many countries around the world arrive at the RPAV Academy to learn about instruction and operation. They come to Israel because we perform daily operational sorties. With this cooperation, we not only teach, but learn as well".