RPAV Operational Training Course
(Source: Israeli Air Force; issued Jan 29, 2020)
Israeli aviators pose in front on an Elbit Hermes 900 unmanned aircraft as they begin a six-month Operational Training Course to qualify as operational unmanned aircraft operators. (IAF photo)
At the end of the RPAV (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicle) Operators Course, the graduates begin their Operational Training Course. The main goal of the course is to train them to use the different platforms and get them familiarized with the dynamic theaters of operations, so they will be able to integrate into their squadrons.

The six month-long RPAV (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicle) Operators Course focuses on the fundamentals of piloting remote aircraft. The cadets learn the professional language and operating the platform as well as working with other aircraft and ATC's (Air Traffic Controllers).

The OTC (Operational Training Course) is an intense course where the operators put their knowledge to the test operationally. The goal of the OTC is to bridge the gap between the knowledge taught in the course and the required expertise to execute operations. Since operational policies, threats and scenarios are dynamic, the OTC material is flexible and may vary from course to course.

"In the OTC, we first meet the aircraft we will pilot for many years to come. Each section studies and becomes familiar with its unique aircraft", explains Lt. B, OTC cadet.

"The OTC is split into two major stages - peach time stage, and a combat stage. In these stages we study the various missions of the RPAV Division in routine and combat", says Lt. Y, Commander of the OTC. "We teach the cadets how to operate the mission systems of the aircraft, and use the knowledge they learned during the course in order to execute operational scenarios".

"OTC cadets are already IAF officers, so they are given more responsibility than during their Operators Course. Each cadet has an operational scenario he leads from A to Z. He is responsible for intelligence briefing on the region, explaining the combat tactics, and emphasizing to the soldiers what are the factors in the field", describes Lt. Y. "The personal responsibility in the OTC prepares the cadets for the time they will lead projects in their squadrons".

Operational Maturity

In the OTC, cadets go through numerous training classes including a mental preparation class where they learn how to deal with the mental pressure of operational activity. Other classes include a "Tiredness" class that emphasizes the importance of sleep and a CRM (Crew Resource Management) class that focuses on teamwork and cooperation. The class is relevant since RPAV Operators work in pairs and full communication is required between them and other forces.

"Being an RPAV Operator means operating all of the platforms. The fundamentals, missions, and commanding of the aircraft are similar. The gap is found in the professional knowledge required to know every platform", determines Lt. Y. "Every aircraft presents a relative advantage in the battle field. The cadets learn to know the differences between the various platforms and practice cooperation".

The cadets get to ask questions about the different platforms and learn from one another. "This method is especially important when they are young. It's just the beginning for them and so they won't become fixed on a certain platform during their service in the squadrons", explains Lt. Y.

"We're Here to Protect Our Country"

"One of the role's most obvious complexities is the adaption to constant change. The dynamic change of scenes and theatres of operation that demand immediate adjustment variate. Besides, there is an inevitable responsibility to stay cautious of your surroundings at all times", articulated Lt. B. "Training and facing challenges in the OTC prepares us for the operational theatre".

"We find ourselves in an atmosphere that pushes us forward, gives answers to our questions and allows us to gain the necessary experience. At the end of the course, we will feel mature enough for operational activity in the squadron. I expect to continue learning and deepening the connection with the operational activity in the operational squadrons. We're here to protect our country", summarized Lt. B.

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