Behind the Apache
(Source: Israeli Air Force; issued May 20, 2019)
Combat in rough weather conditions, providing ground forces with air support and high-precision target striking are only a few of the Attack Helicopter Division’s capabilities. In an age of advanced fighter aircraft and cutting-edge RPAVs (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicles) – what is the Attack Helicopter Division’s significance?

Airstrikes in southern Lebanon, classified special forces operations, the recent attacks in Gaza and provision of air support to ground forces while protecting Israel’s skies – this is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Attack Helicopter Division. What are the division’s main missions? In what conditions can the “Apache” fly? What advantages do helicopters have over RPAVs (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicles) and fighter aircraft? The IAF Site provides you with a sneak peek of the 113th (“Hornet”) Squadron, which operates the “Saraf” (Apache Longbow) helicopter.

A True Partner

“One of the Attack Helicopter Division’s advantages is demonstrated in air support missions”, emphasized Lt. Col. A’, Commander of the 113th Squadron. This is one of the IAF’s most complex missions. “Our proximity to the ground forces is not only physical, but is also echoed in our close cooperation, which is rooted in a long history of mutual training and activity”.

One of the missions performed by the division is assisting Regional Defense Officers – civilians that can request the help of attack helicopters in protection of Israeli citizens when necessary. In addition, the division provides air support to IDF special forces deep in enemy territory.

Brother, Do You Copy?

The connection between the pilots in the cockpit and the combatants on the ground is what sets the Attack Helicopter Division aside from the force’s other platforms. Maj. A’, Deputy Commander of the 113th Squadron, has a story that illustrates that connection perfectly. “During 2014 Operation ‘Protective Edge’, I strongly understood the significance of providing air support”, he recalled. “My brother Yogev was a combatant in the Nahal Brigade’s 931st Battalion, and entered the Gaza Strip as the company commander’s signal operator. Throughout the entire operation I waited for a chance to see how my brother was doing, all while my family had no idea regarding his well-being”.

“During one of the sorties we performed at night in particularly rough weather conditions, I was able to contact the brigade. I learned which battalion my brother was in, tuned the frequency, and requested to speak with Yogev”, he recalled. “It was exciting to ask him how he was doing and update my mom that everything was OK”.

Aerial forces have a broad overview of the ground, and are able to locate the enemy firing at our forces. Seeing as they’re an inseparable part of the mission, members of the Attack Helicopter Division plan with the brigade ahead of time. “We know the planned details and location of the brigade’s operations, and receive our designated targets from them before they begin maneuvering. As attack helicopter pilots, our mission is to assist the force as fast as possible when necessary”, explained Maj. A’. “Whether the enemy is close by or far away, we are there when covering fire is needed”.

“The presence of an attack helicopter in the dense area of the Gaza Strip allows for faster and better casualty evacuation during an enemy encounter”, explained Lt. Col. A’. “The Attack Helicopter Division’s first and foremost advantage is its flexibility. It manifests in the way we handle complex situations during war, as opposed to routine security measures. Another one of the division’s advantages is its capability to operate and fight in rough weather conditions”.

“The best attack helicopter in the world”

On September 11 1990, the first advanced “Peten” (Apache) helicopters arrived to Ramon AFB. The “Peten” brought sophisticated systems and advanced munition such as laser-guided missiles against tanks, capable of precisely hitting targets as well as new radar capabilities. Ever since, members of the division perform a variety of operational missions in various theatres on a daily basis.

“The 113th Squadron participated in the 2006 Lebanon War even before it was declared operational”, wrote Brig. Gen. (Res’) Nir Nin-Nun, previously Head of the Helicopter & Air Support Division, in celebration of the 113th Squadron’s 50th anniversary. “Today, the squadron is at the center of the IAF’s operational activity and brings the force, the IDF and Israel unique capabilities while fulfilling many operational needs”.

The special cooperation with the ground forces is only part of what the members of the Attack Helicopter have to offer. “Saraf” pilots are capable of quickly searching and locating targets, as well as the ability to attack several moving targets from far away. The division also cooperates with the Fighter Division, as could be seen in recent exercises alongside “Sufa” (F-16I) squadrons from Ramon AFB. “I have to ensure that my people are ready for a variety of scenarios and missions that aren’t related to the field of air support alone, such as complex airstrikes and protecting Israel’s skies”, stated Lt. Col. A’.

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