At the heart of the Negev exists one of the IAF's most operational airbases – Ramon AFB. Aircraft take off around the clock from the airbase's runways while its fighter jet and attack helicopter squadrons continue to integrate advanced munitions and technologies
Ramon AFB was established in May of 1982 - 36 years later, it is home to a massive Fighter Division made up of jets and helicopters: the 253rd ("Negev") Squadron, which was the first to integrate the "Sufa" (F-16I) aircraft; the 119th ("Bat") Squadron which was established as a "Sufa" squadron that same year; and the 201st ("One") Squadron, which was the latest squadron in the base to integrate the advanced fighter jet.
Also operating from the airbase are the 190th ("Magic Touch") Squadron which operates "Peten" (Apache") attack helicopters and the 113th ("Hornet") Squadron which operates "Saraf" (Apache Longbow") helicopters.
The IAF's Offensive Base
"Ramon AFB plays a part in nearly the entirety of the IAF's offensive operations: from air support, through attacks and to operations. You could call Ramon the IAF's offensive base", said Col. G', the base's commander. "Each one of our platforms is offensive, which is unique in the IAF and allows for focused offensive operation".
On the morning of February 10th, 2018, an Iranian UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) infiltrated into Israel's territory before being intercepted by a "Saraf" helicopter flown by the commander of the 113th Squadron. Throughout the summer, "Sufa" squadrons frequently took off from the airbase on operational sorties and attacks in the Gaza Strip. "If I had to conclude the past year, I would say that we live in interesting times", said Lt. Col. A', Commander of the 119th Squadron. "Our operational reality is changing on a weekly basis".
The aircrew members need to train properly in order to perform complex operational activity. Over the past year they have drilled sudden events on Israel's borders, participated in exercises alongside the IDF ground forces and exercised various missions and threats both by day and at night. Furthermore, the airbase's aircrew members held two exercises in cooperation with military forces from Greece: as part of the first exercise, "Sufa" squadrons flew to Greece; as part of the second exercise, Hellenic Air Force helicopter squadrons flew to Ramon for joint training.
"International cooperation and level of performance are of great importance, and as a result we maintain the highest standards possible", elaborated Col. G'. "Our high level of accommodation and training is our way to improve deterrence and assert the IAF's strength".
On the Runway
The Fighter Division has stabilized since the integration of the first "Sufa" aircraft in 2004, and is currently integrating new munitions and capabilities at a rapid pace. "Today's 'Sufa' isn't the 'Sufa' of two years ago, and in two years the aircraft will be different from what we have today. The rate of integration allows the aircraft to have the most advanced munitions possible", said Lt. Col. A'. "The recently integrated capabilities and munitions have broadened the scope of the airbase's operational activity".
"The ability to fly stealthily at night expands the borders of the 'Sufa' Division and allows the aircraft to come into play in a more significant manner", described Col. G'. "In the near future, the 'Sufa' Division will have capabilities nearing the fifth-generation thanks to the advanced technology we have at hand".
The airbase's attack helicopter squadrons also integrated a new precision-guided munition. "It expands the amount of munitions, the variety and our capabilities, which allows for entirely new operational scenarios", added Col. G'.
At the Heart of the Negev
Service in Ramon AFB is challenging in several respects. "It's hard to find a balance between your service and your personal life, but alongside the challenge comes a certain satisfaction", elaborated Col. G'. "There's a feeling of solidarity, connection to the Negev and the IAF's operationality. It's a familial experience unique to Ramon".
In January of 2018, MSgt. Sapir Kroitoro of the 201st Squadron became the first female HAS (Hardened Aircraft Shelter) Commander in the Fighter Division. In October, Maj. N' became a 1st Deputy Squadron Commander in Ramon AFB. "When appointing squadron commanders and their deputies, the consideration isn't gender but professional, social and command capabilities. I'm glad to see that we have female potential", said Col. G'.
"Ramon AFB is undergoing a momentous strengthening process which will continue to grow over the coming years", concluded Col. G'. "Thanks to its service members, I'm certain that the process will be performed in a professional manner which will allow us to bring the IAF a step forward".