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Follow Me: IAF Flight Leader Course Release date 21.02.2018
Last week, WSOs and fighter pilots participated in the IAF Flight Leader Course. The aircrew members arrived at Uvda AFB to learn the challenges in leading flight formations
Nuphar Blitt

The 115th (“Flying Dragon”) Squadron is the IAF’s aggressor squadron, simulating enemy forces in IAF training exercises. Last week, the squadron held a Flight Leader Course, teaching WSOs and fighter pilots how to lead paired flight formations. The weeklong course took place in Uvda AFB, wherein aircrew members that operate “Sufa” (F-16I), “Barak” (F-16C/D) and “Baz” (F-15) aircraft faced the dilemmas of leading flight formations. As part of the course, they developed their decision-making skills and prepared themselves before returning to their respective squadrons as flight leaders.

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The 115th Squadron has held the course since its establishment in 2005, following the growing demand for flight leaders. “Aircrew members arrive at the course after being spotted as potential flight leaders by their squadron commanders”, described Maj. T’, Deputy Squadron Commander. “Requirements for the course include a minimum of two years in their respective squadrons, as well as former experience in leading training exercises”.

Leading the Way
Pilots and WSOs arrive at the course from various fighter jet squadrons in the IAF. “They arrive at the course after a weeklong sequence of ground preparation, which includes lectures regarding the flight leader’s traits”, explained Maj. T’. “The course included four days of flight. The first day dealt with leading flight formations during routine, while the rest of the course saw the aircrew members face operational dilemmas”.

Photography: Celia Garion

The course, held twice a year, is a crucial part of training operational flight leaders. “Aircrew members undergo a serious change”, added Maj. T’. “They go from being secondary aircraft in the formation to taking responsibility over the entire formation – checking if the other pilots are fit to fly, performing the mission in the best way possible and ensuring a safe return”. Capt. B’, a WSO in the participating 253th (“Negev”) Squadron, added: “The course is a highlight in our training process. It teaches how to face the challenges in leading a flight formation, while also giving us a chance to learn from others’ experience”.

Facing Operational Dilemmas
The scenarios are kept secret in order to ensure that the participants arrive with minimal knowledge regarding the course. “We wanted to surprise the participants and face them with unexpected missions in the air”, emphasized Capt. B’. Maj. T’ went on to add: “The idea is to have them face operational and moral dilemmas during the decision-making process. The Flight Leader Course provides the aircrew members with a chance to face dilemmas that are rarely encountered by the operational squadrons during routine”.

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Experienced flight leaders from the 115th Squadron simulate the formations’ secondary aircraft. “We choose the most experienced flight leaders in the squadron, lead them in flight formations, and then listen to their advice”, explained Capt. B’.

The Flight Leader’s Responsibility
The flight leader’s responsibility is huge. As a result, the training process is long and does not end with the aerial course. “The flight leader is in command of the entire flight formation. It is a significant position with great authority”, concluded Capt. B’. “Flight leaders are required to have good judgment, restraint, quick decision-making skills and professional experience.”.