The "Baz" (F-15) and "Barak" (F-16C/D) fighter jets recently participated in an exercise with the fifth-generation "Adir" (F-35I), preparing for potential future operations. This was the first ever exercise of this sort
"We're not going to adjust the 'Adir' (F-35I) according to the air force – we're going to adjust the air force according to the 'Adir'". This is what IAF senior members said just before the advanced stealth fighter arrived in Israel in late 2016. Since then, the IAF has integrated several "Adir" jets and personnel while adjusting itself according to the aircraft's capabilities. Now, in the summer of 2019, the "Adir" squadron is already participating in operational activity in the Middle East, while also training alongside the force's fourth-generation aircraft.
The IAF's "Baz" (F-15) and "Barak" (F-16C/D) squadrons recently participated in a mutual exercise alongside the "Adir" squadron. "The goal of the exercise was to study the fifth-generation capabilities together", said Maj. M', Deputy Commander of the 140th Squadron. This was the first time that the participating squadrons flew alongside the "Adir", briefing and debriefing together.
"When we established the squadron, we focused on training the aircrew members and integrating the platform – it was important that we learn how to fly and fight using our new aircraft", elaborated Maj. M'. "Since then, we've become an operational squadron participating in warfare; now, we've come to the stage where we begin to join forces with the other aircraft in the IAF, thus developing new combat doctrines. After this, we'll be able to fight as a unified force".
The fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft are different to each other in terms of capabilities, systems and combat doctrines, as each platform has a language of its own. In order to work together, the squadrons are then required to form a mutual language. "Learning to work together was the exercise's main goal", said Maj. A', Deputy Commander of the 133rd ("Knights of the Twin Tail") Squadron, which operates "Baz" (F-15) aircraft.
Solving the Riddle
The crews faced an operational scenario planned by the 115th ("Flying Dragon") Squadron, the force's aggressor squadron. "We plan according to each aircraft's advantages, thus solving the operational 'riddle' we were faced with", elaborated Maj. M'. "We take off as a formation, fight against the enemy and successfully perform our mission".
"Another one of the exercise's focal points was SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) threats", described Capt. B', an aircrew member at the 115th Squadron. "We faced the participating forces with things they'd never encountered before in the fields of moving targets and OPFOR (Opposing Forces) simulation".
Throughout the week, each side learned lessons and adjusted itself accordingly the day after. Maj. A' said: "The improvement we noted throughout the exercise was amazing. The cooperative work continued to improve because we constantly learned how to improve our briefing, our operation, and our grasp of the 'Adir' fighter's systems".
Cooperating in Every Mission
Each platform and squadron has its own unique weapon and specialty. "Our modes of operation are different, so we want to try and emphasize each division's advantages in order to improve our combat abilities", elaborated Maj. M'. "During warfare, the force's squadrons operate together. Until today, the 'Adir' was in a sort of bubble of its own. Now, the force is slowly getting to learn its features".
The exercise was meant not only for the aircrew members, but for the Technical Departments as well. "Throughout the week, our technicians maintained dozens of 'Baz' fighters while located in an unfamiliar base with limited means at their disposal", emphasized Maj. A'.
"After this exercise, I know that if an 'Adir' flies in formation with me, I'm aware of its capabilities and of the ways we can assist each other", said Maj. A'. Maj. Y', Deputy Commander of the 105th ("Scorpion") Squadron, which operates the "Barak" aircraft, added: "Flying alongside a new platform is a bit like flying with an international air force. Whenever we're called to operate together, we'll know how to do it in a good, efficient manner"