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In Pitch Dark Release date 24.01.2018
Last week, the IAF's "Sufa" (F-16I) squadrons participated in a night flight exercise, as part of which they simulated navigation and attack sorties in the dead of night
Nuphar Blitt

Many of the IAF's operations are performed in the dead of night. Last week, the IAF's "Sufa" (F-16I) squadrons participated in a night flight exercise in order to improve their nighttime capabilities. "We fly during the day when in routine, briefing in the morning and debriefing in the evening. We reversed everything this week – we perform nothing but night flights, and our goal is to perform our missions in the dark just like we do in daylight", said Maj. S', Deputy Squadron Commander at the "Bat" Squadron, which led the exercise.


Photo: Avihay Soher

Days and Nights Alike
As part of the exercise, the "Sufa" squadrons simulated various scenarios in order to develop their night flight capabilities. "Combat during the night and combat during the day are nearly identical, but the flight itself is much more complicated in the dark", elaborated Maj. S'. "We have to approach the target from the right altitude at the right angle in order to properly drop the munitions – we're expected to have complete control of the aircraft's systems. That's why it's important to train at night as well".

The exercise was made up of two scenarios which included locating targets on the ground from different altitudes, navigation sorties and low-altitude attack sorties, with each squadron performing its own designated missions. Capt A' from the "Bat" Squadron, which was in charge of the exercise, said that they allowed for each squadron to focus on certain aspects according to their needs, knowing that each squadron requires different capabilities.


Photo: Avihay Soher

New Challenges
Nighttime provides the IAF's pilots with numerous new challenges. Besides disrupting their sleep schedules, the night forces the pilots to use NVDs (Night Vision Devices) and disrupts their takeoffs and landings. "The advantage in the 'Sufa' aircraft is its ability to fly in darkness at a low altitude for longer periods of time", said Maj. S'. "An entire world is at our disposal, allowing us to perform unique operations and surprise the enemy".

One of the systems the pilots utilize is called “Journal” - installed on their helmet, it helps them see by intensifying starlight. “At night, instead of looking outside and occasionally checking the instruments in the cockpit, we look further inside – at the aircraft’s systems. That’s how we control our altitude, our speed and our proximity to other aircraft in the formation – things that you can see by looking outside during the day”, shared Maj. S. “Our basic habits change. Flying without a sense as important as sight isn’t simple”. Today, pilots and WSOs can fly in zero-visibility conditions, in which targets are barely visible to the naked eye. “We need to be prepared and able to perform all of our missions at night just like during the day”, noted Maj. A’.