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Stronger Together: “Or HaDagan” Exercise Release date 14.09.2017
“Or HaDagan”, the largest IDF exercise in the past 19 years, which included all IDF units in the air, on the ground and in the sea, came to an end today. The exercise, which simulated combat in the northern front included transportation of troops, deployment of aerial defense batteries and cooperation with ground forces

“Or HaDagan”, the largest IDF exercise in the past 19 years, which included all IDF units in the air, on the ground and in the sea, came to an end today. The exercise, which simulated combat in the northern front included transportation of troops, deployment of aerial defense batteries and cooperation with ground forcesThe large-scale “Or HaDagan” IDF training exercise, the largest in the past 19 years, was completed today. While simultaneously participating in the IDF-wide exercise, the IAF also performed one of its biannual force-wide flying exercises. IAF aircrew members dealt with two theatres, southern and northern, and faced different scenarios in each one.

“In the southern theatre we rehearsed IAF missions – strikes, interceptions, and aerial battles, while in the north we participated in an IDF-wide exercise in which we simulated photography, attack and close air support sorties”, explained Lt. Gil, the exercise leader from the “Knights of the Orange Tail” Squadron, which operates the “Sufa” (F-16I).

Photography: Celia Garion

Maximizing Capabilities
The IAF-wide flying exercise focused on air support and missions exclusive to the IAF itself. All of the IAF’s fighter squadrons participated in the exercise, each utilizing its unique capabilities in order to improve its readiness.

The “Knights of the Twin Tail” Squadron, which operates the “Baz” (F-15) from Tel-Nof AFB, serves as a significant knowledge center regarding photography missions in the fighter division, and as such, operated intensively while focusing on two missions - intelligence related photography, and participation in the combat effort alongside the IAF’s other fighter squadrons. “The exercise required a different pace of work from us, and we performed all of the squadron’s missions throughout”, shared Lt. T, the squadron’s photography officer. “We received a high number of photography and attack targets throughout the exercise, and the real test was maintaining full operational continuity alongside operational activity. There is always an element of uncertainty in combat, and our job is to prepare for every scenario while focusing on attacking many targets in short periods of time. The squadron operated like it would in combat, and received real-time intelligence according to which our aircrews took off and attacked targets, or completed the intelligence with aerial photography in the relevant areas”.

The southern Hatzerim AFB also operated around the clock: the “Hammers” Squadron, the only squadron in the IAF that operates the “Ra’am” (F-15I), realized its aircraft’s unique abilities throughout the exercise and performed dozens of attacks in extremely short periods of time. “The ‘Ra’am’ (F-15I) can carry a larger amount of armament than any other IAF aircraft, a fact that makes it a significant player in any campaign”, explained Master Sergeant Harel, a HAS (Hardened Aircraft Shelter) commander in the squadron. Capt. Shay, an aircrew member and the squadron’s exercise leader added: “The jet’s unique capabilities mainly regard armament – the squadron is available for attacks that require large amounts of munitions and specializes in the operation of complex weapons, autonomous and guided”.

Photography: Adi Abu

Everything Starts Here
The Air Support and Helicopter Division’s personnel are deployed in the field and are the ones who transform the IDF ground forces’ requirements into strike targets and operational orders. IDF ground forces in the field communicate the targets to IAF JTACs (Joint Terminal Attack Controllers), reserve officers trained by the IAF Cooperation Unit, who in turn – transform the information conveyed from the ground units into aerial targets.

“The fighter jets that participated in the exercise attacked the targets created by the JTACs on the ground. Everything starts here”, explained Maj. Eyal Sabag from the Cooperation Unit who commanded the JTAC operations room in the exercise.

Photography: Cyril Geiboronsky

Fighting for the North
Throughout the exercise and as part of IAF assistance to ground maneuvers, IAF transport helicopters were required to transport large quantities of combatants into deep enemy territory and extract injured personnel. “We prepared for the exercise long before it began”, shared Maj. Dan, Deputy Commander of the “Nocturnal Birds” Squadron, which operates the “Yas’ur” (CH-53) from Tel-Nof AFB. “We made sure that all of the squadron’s departments were prepared for combat”.

Photography: Cyril Geiboronsky

The “Kochav” of the Exercise
Last month, the “Kochav” (Hermes 900) UAV was announced operational and has since participated in the “Or HaDagan” exercise. “It was the first large exercise the ‘Kochav’ participated in, so naturally, its integration in the exercise was challenging”, shared Cpt. Oshri, the exercise leader from the squadron that operates the “Kochav” UAV from Palmahim AFB. “Headquarters are still getting to know the ‘Kochav’ and in the exercise they needed to utilize its capabilities, understand its limitations and communicate operational commands to the squadron accordingly”.

The “Kochav” is the newest UAV in the IAF and many of its missions involve cooperation with ground forces, in accordance, the UAV Division routinely trains with the various IDF Divisions. “This cooperation is a power multiplier”, Oshri added. “We understand that victory in battle depends on our relationship with the divisions, on our ability to assist them and their ability to operate us optimally”.

Photography: Mor Tzidon

Optimal conditions for maneuver and attack
The Aerial Defense Division’s personnel were among the first forces to deploy their systems and the last to leave the field. The forces were deployed throughout the country, while focusing on the northern theatre. “A strong and effective defense creates optimal condition for maneuver and attack”, asserted Brig. Gen. Zwika Haimovitch, Commander of the Aerial Defense Division.

Photography: Celia Garion

Connecting With the Forces in the Field
The Tactical Transport Division also took a significant part in the aerial component of the exercise. The “Karnaf” (Hercules C-130) and the “Shimshon” (Super Hercules C-130J) parachuted paratroopers, transported supplies to combatants in the field and rehearsed casualty evacuation from combat zones. “Our connection with the forces in the field is of great importance”, said Maj. Nadav, Deputy Commander of the “Elephants” Squadron. “We are responsible for transporting forces in and out of the battlefield and for airlifting supplies and equipment critical for combat”.

Photography: Celia Garion