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IAF Escape Seminar Release date 03.06.2018
An IAF Site reporter joined the IAF Flight Course’s most intriguing and classified basic stage seminar, as part of which dozens of Flight Course cadets learned how to escape in case they eject in enemy territory
Illy Pe'ery

We are standing on the side of a steep mountain. I knew that we were going to search at night, but I never saw a night as dark as this. “Now all we have to do is to sit and wait”, said Capt. D’, a crew commander from the basic stage. After being on the lookout for several minutes, I follow Capt. D’ as he darts towards a red light. Squad 105, with two escaping cadets, was caught.

Photography: Koral Dvir

I had the privilege of joining the Flight Course’s most intriguing and classified basic stage seminar – the Escape Seminar. During the seminar, dozens of cadets learn how to escape in case they eject in enemy territory with the goal of returning to Israel’s territory as fast as possible.

“I remember two experiences from the flight course. The seminar is one of them”, revealed Capt. I’, the course’s commander, while rushing through the desert in a jeep searching for escaping squads. “Over the weeklong seminar you walk dozens of kilometers without food, constantly being pursued and you need to fight for your success”.

Photo courtesy of the IAF Flight Academy

To the Hideout
We met the cadets a few hours earlier, at the beginning of the seminar. They had just jumped out of the “Shimshon” (C-130J Super Hercules) aircraft to the sands of Palmahim as part of a parachuting course they underwent the same week. When all 90 cadets reached the ground, they returned to the “Shimshon” aircraft without knowing their destination. This time, something went wrong.

“We simulated the aircraft getting hit by an enemy, forcing us to land in northern Israel and begin a journey dozens of kilometers long”, said Capt. I’. “Our goal was to bring the cadets to a place that would simulate the experience of ejecting in enemy territory. There, the ejecting crews would be pursued and required to run for their life. At the end of their journey, already exhausted, each squad runs as fast as possible and reaches a temporary hideout, where they receive more instructions”.

“During operational activity, your aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile, the aircraft began to plummet towards the ground and you were able to parachute successfully. The both of you landed safely”. This is the content of the letter received by the cadets. “You landed in an area surrounded by enemy settlements. To your estimation, the locals will arrive at the area soon. You need to find a temporary hideout”.

Photography: Koral Dvir

Walking at Night, Hiding by Day
Besides the instructional letters, the trainees are equipped with the equipment received by every ejecting pilot - one energy bar, some water and a 1:250,000 scale map not meant for ground navigation. The map marks the current location of the cadets and the area they must reach before dawn. The cadets rely on the basic principle of escaping – walk at night, hide by day.

“The IAF aims to evacuate ejected pilots as fast as possible. If you aren’t evacuated, you must escape”, explained Capt. D’. “After the cadets find a temporary hideout, they wait until nighttime and continue to the next hideout. When they make it to the next hideout, they find a place and go to sleep”.

Photography: Koral Dvir

Know Your Enemy
Throughout the escape seminar, the cadets are pursued by simulated hostile forces made up of IAF and Israel Police helicopters, IAF RPAVs (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicle), operators from the IDF's commando units and various others in order to simulate the enemy's determination and create a challenging scenario for the cadets.

"The weeklong escape seminar is a long exercise beginning with intensive drilling in the field of the escape scheme – a number of actions the downed pilot has to perform at the moment of ejection. Afterwards, we delve into hiding and operational movement, performing the entire exercise in both southern and northern theatre scenarios", explained Capt. (Res') K', an officer in the SAR (Search-and-rescue) Unit 669 Escape Department. "One of our main points in preparation is understanding the enemy – how they plan their search, where they come from, what their capabilities are and what their course of action will be. All of these are major influences on the cadets' choices".

Photography: Koral Dvir

The SAR Unit 669 instructors rely on military intelligence and previous downed pilot stories for their instructional work. "We debrief every ejecting aircrew member following their ejection. We want to make sure that our instructions remain relevant to the ever-changing theatres", elaborated Capt. K'. "We ask the aircrews if they know where they ejected, what they thought and what they planned. We want to know if everything we teach is applicable. Based on our last debriefs, we learned that everything we teach is applicable".

Photo courtesy of the Flight Academy

The Will to Survive
"Success in the seminar depends on the cadets' investment", said Capt. D'. "A basic rule in escape says that if it's difficult for the escapee, it's also difficult for the pursuer. The escaping cadets have the will to survive. The pursuers want to capture a soldier, but they don't have the survival motivation the escapees have".

Photography: Koral Dvir

"The escape seminar is a conclusion of the flight course's basic stage", concluded Capt. Y'. "At the end of the escape seminar, we look for the cadets who chose the correct options instead of the easy ones. It's easy to handle a mission after sleeping, eating and drinking, but those situations aren't promised during wartime, when aircrew members can remain in the squadron for weeks or months. During such a situation, they would have to continue fighting without giving up. The same goes for escape scenarios. You can't give up until you reach a safe haven".