A decade has passed since the 201st (“One”) Squadron’s reestablishment as a squadron operating “Sufa” (F-16I) aircraft. The squadron, which was the last to integrate “Sufa” aircraft in the IAF, is at the peak of its activity. “In the last half a year we tripled our operational activity”
In June 1999, Israel’s Prime Minister and Secretary of Defense approved the IAF’s recommendation to purchase “Sufa” advanced fighter jets. The aircraft replaced “Kurnas” (F-4) aircraft, which were decommissioned in the beginning of 2000. In July 2008, the 201st (“One”) Squadron was reopened in Ramon AFB as a squadron operating “Sufa” aircraft. “The squadron, which was established almost 50 years ago as the first ‘Kurnas’ squadron, was reopened as the fourth and last squadron to operate ‘Sufa’ aircraft”, stated Lt. Col. S’, the squadron’s commander.
A decade later, the 201st Squadron continues to operate “Sufa” aircraft. Its main missions include offense, reconnaissance and air superiority missions. “The ‘Sufa’ is a two-seat aircraft with advanced systems and night flight capabilities”, explained Lt. Col. S’. “In addition, the squadron has unique capabilities in offense and reconnaissance”.
“Sufa” Coming in for a Landing
In 2008, a year after the establishment team began its work, the 201st Squadron was officially reopened. “The IAF is constantly evolving and facing new operational needs. As a result, it was decided to establish four squadrons operating ‘Sufa’”, elaborated Col. (Res’) S’, Commander of the 201st Squadron during its reopening. “In the beginning, we didn’t have anything, from infrastructure to personnel. We understood that anything we wouldn’t plan ourselves wouldn’t happen”. The team responsible for establishing the squadron relied on assistance from previously opened “Sufa” squadrons. “One of the benefits of being the fourth squadron to be established was that we could learn from the conclusions drawn by the other squadrons during their establishment”.
Col. (Res’) S’ talked about one of the biggest challenges in establishing a squadron: “When a new squadron is established, the IAF’s most talented people are taken to serve in it. We established the squadron after several other new squadrons were established, and older squadrons had already transferred their strongest members to the new squadrons. Finding suitable personnel for the squadron was a complex challenge, but it eventually led us to find people who understand the significance of opening a new squadron”.
“The squadron has taken a large part in operational activity throughout the years, integrating new weapon systems and replacing its personnel”, explained Col. S. “In the last decade we have integrated and will continue to integrate new munitions which will maintain our relevance in the evolving battlefield”.
A month ago, the squadron integrated the “SPICE” munition manufactured by “Rafael” industry. “SPICE” is an advanced electro-optical munition with high-precision, penetration and defense capabilities. “SPICE” bombs are picture-guided and have high maneuvering and response capabilities targeting both mobile and immobile targets. The first to integrate the munition were squadrons operating “Barak” (F-16C/D) aircraft, and it will eventually be integrated into all combat squadrons.
“It takes around a decade for a squadron to complete its establishment process and twenty years until it is completely stable”, said Col. S. “During this period, we stabilize the squadron’s flight doctrines. Although the squadron is already 50 years old, we created new traditions and doctrines as a ‘Sufa’ squadron. There is a generation of aircrew members who have performed the entirety of their service in the squadron. The squadron isn’t composed of people from other squadrons anymore”. Col. (Res’) S’ added: “Now the squadron is like any other squadron. Looking back, the significance of the 201st Squadron and its people thrills me”.
“Lately, our operational strength has grown significantly. In the last six months we tripled the scope of our operational activity”, concluded Col. S’. “The ‘Sufa’ Division is the IAF’s largest fighter jet division, and will continue to serve as the pillar of the IAF. The IAF will continue to develop and integrate new weapon systems”.