Over the past week, the 105th and 106th Squadrons participated in an aerial exercise focusing on flight under missile threat. Alongside the 115th Squadron, the forces drilled operation under combined ground and aerial threats in the southern theatre
The aircrew members have received a mission to strike a target in enemy territory. In order to reach their target, they must fly over a number of hostile SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) batteries posing a threat. After performing the mission, the formation needs to return to Israel's territory and face a hostile aerial force. This is just one of several scenarios drilled recently by the 105th (Scorpion) Squadron, operating "Barak" (F-16C/D) aircraft, the 106th ("Tip of the Spear") Squadron, which operates "Baz" (F-15) aircraft, and the 115th ("Flying Dragon") Squadron, which operates "Barak" (F-16C/D) aircraft.
On the Ground and in the Air
Over the past week, the IAF held an aerial exercise focusing on flight under missile threat. As part of the exercise, the force's aircrew members focused on flight in face of SAM batteries and hostile aerial forces simulated by the 115th Squadron, the IAF's aggressor squadron.
The force's fighter squadrons participate in this exercise approximately once every 18 months. "The sorties are challenging, complex and even dangerous. We have to face both ground threats – the SAM batteries – and aerial threats – the hostile aircraft simulated by the 115th Squadron", elaborated Maj. Y', Deputy Commander at the 105th Squadron. Capt. S', an aircrew member at the 115th Squadron, added: "We face the aircrews with dilemmas they need to resolve in order to perform their mission properly. If they don't operate correctly, they won't be able to meet their requirements".
"We drilled a scenario where we were the leading formation, and behind us was a formation whose goal was to strike a target in enemy territory", described Maj. Y'. "In this situation, our goal was to clear the airspace and allow the formation to reach its target. Afterwards, we were to escort it back to Israel while facing the threat of hostile SAM batteries".
Three Airbases, One Scenario
The 105th Squadron takes off from Hatzor AFB while the 106th Squadron takes off from Tel-Nof – however, the two drill the same scenario. "One aircrew member from the 115th Squadron takes off from Hatzor while the others take off from Uvda", said Maj. Y'. "At the end of each day we hold a joint debrief. Even though the squadrons operate different platforms, we still manage to learn together".
The exercise was established by the 115th Squadron, who consulted with the participating squadrons throughout the planning process. Its fundamentals are determined in advance, but certain details are adjusted with each iteration according to the participating squadrons. "Squadrons usually participate in this exercise during the integration of new aircrew members. It marks the first time these aircrews encounter ground and aerial threats at the same time", said Capt. A', an aircrew member at the 115th Squadron.
How does the 115th Squadron manage to simulate aerial threats in an optimal manner while also ensuring that the exercise is at the appropriate level of difficulty? "On one hand, we want the training to be at a higher level than what the aircrews might encounter in real-time; on the other hand, we don't want it to be impossible", explained Capt. S'.
"In order to allow for optimal training, we plan as many aerial encounters as possible in the airspace above the SAM batteries", emphasized Capt. A'. "The aircrews' main challenge is deciding which threat they handle first – ground or air".
"We don't know what the next campaign will be, but we know certain aspects of it", said Maj. Y'. "The missile threat exercise is just one way to train the force's aircrew members. We also integrate additional elements we would like to drill into the exercise, including flight with partial system operation, in order to practice more of the force's various capabilities".