RPAV (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicle) control stations are usually home to two operators working together in operation of the aircraft. For the first time in the RPAV Division, it was decided that the operators perform solo sorties while still in their Operator Course.
Involved in All Activity
70% of the IAF's operational flight hours are performed by RPAVs. "Any operational IAF mission is either performed exclusively by an RPAV, or has an RPAV partaking in the mission", explained Lt. Col. R', Commander of the RPAV Academy. "We are involved in all activity, and are always on ready alert ahead of potential sudden events. At almost any given moment, there are airborne aircraft performing a mission".
RPAV operators are officers responsible for operating the aircraft and its systems in a wide variety of missions. They are responsible for their operation from end to end. "There are several skills required for becoming an operator", explained Lt. Col. R'. "One has to know how to operate an aircraft during emergency, use the aerial overview systems, analyze intel and work as a team".
Alone in the Sky
Six months ago, it was decided to change the content of the RPAV Operator Course. The conclusion was reached that operators needed to be more independent upon their arrival at the squadron, acting as if they were aircraft commanders capable of piloting it all by themselves.
"We based the idea on the Flight Course's solo flights", elaborated Lt. A', an instructor at the RPAV Academy. "Solo flights heighten the feelings of responsibility, independence and competence in the cadets. There are no instructors watching over them and preventing potential mistakes. This means we have to ensure that they're thoroughly prepared, and we make sure that they know we trust them".
"The cadets feel the need to perform better and better with every sortie, seeing as soon they'll be alone in the control station. This makes them more independent", said Lt. A'. "You can already see the improvement in operators arriving at the squadrons after the course".
"The main thing you feel before a sortie is pressure. Suddenly, there is no one to assist you and ensure you're doing everything correctly. Sometimes it's hard to see it when you're in the control station, but there's an actual aircraft in the sky and the responsibility is all yours", described D', a cadet at the RPAV Operator Course. "As time goes by, we understand that we're as prepared as can be for this".
"The IAF understand the importance of the RPAV Division", emphasized D'. "Solo flights are essential for development of the division's operators. Then, the operators can graduate knowing they're fully prepared for operational missions".