Events Log

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Preparing for the Unknown Release date 03.10.2018
Recently, the 69th (“Hammers”) Squadron and the ATC (Air Traffic Control) Unit drilled unexpected events in the northern theatre. What are the challenges in planning such an exercise? What does an unexpected event mean? What are the northern theatre’s unique characteristics?
Yael Fuchs

Recently, an unexpected event exercise was held in the northern theatre led by the 69th (“Hammers”) Squadron, which operates “Ra’am” (F-15I) aircraft from Hatzerim AFB. An unexpected event is defined as a scenario, either in emergency or during routine, which requires quick, precise actions under uncertain conditions. Such events can be divided into two parts: responsive and initiative. A responsive unexpected event is an IAF reaction to sudden states of vulnerability, such as hostile aerial or ground incursions into Israel’s territory, which require immediate prevention. The initial information regarding an event of this sort will usually come from combatants in the field from either the Navy and the GOC Army Headquarters or the ATC (Air Traffic Control) Unit, before being relayed to the operating squadrons and a controller in the IAF Control Center.

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An initiative unexpected event is an IAF attack in enemy territory (such as a strike on a munitions depot) performed in response to an attack on Israel. An initiative event can also act as in prevention of future attacks on Israel. In events of this sort, the initial information will come from the controller and relayed to the squadrons and relevant units in the field.

All Across the Country
The alarm is sounded at the squadron, and in just several seconds the aircrew members find themselves in the cockpit, waiting for further instructions from the exercise directorate. “We decided to drill a wartime scenario and prepared the squadrons accordingly: we relayed intelligence and operation orders throughout the exercise, just like we would during actual wartime”, said Lt. Y’, the squadron’s exercise leader. “We focused on the northern theatre, but drilled all across the country in manners simulating the uniqueness of the theatre”.

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Besides practical management of the exercise, Lt. Y’ pointed out the importance of the mood at the squadron. “There aren’t many flight weeks simulating such events during routine. Most days, the sorties are flown separately. This time, we established a training ground according to wartime scenarios. It was changed and updated throughout”, elaborated Lt. Y’. “This exercise faced us with conflicts we are due to encounter in the air, such as SAMs (surface-to-air missiles). The main challenge for the exercise’s planning team was to create the most tangible threat possible, and the main challenge for the pilots and WSOs was acting against a non-existent threat”.

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“We constructed an exercise plan alongside the operations clerks, whose goal was to ensure the highest quality of training possible”, elaborated Lt. Y’. “The Navigation & Intelligence service members established the evolving field of operations, which required them to view numerous tapes from past missions, constructed a threat program and detected the relevant coordinates”. The squadron’s ground department focused on planning the sorties’ continuity with various flight scenarios and munitions. “Just like the flying aircrews draw lessons, so do the technical crews operating on the ground”, said Lt. Y’. “The price of a mistake during training is equal to the price of a mistake during wartime. We have to make sure every part of the system is working in synchronicity in order to ensure execution of the mission”.

How is an Exercise Planned?
Planning an exercise is a long procedure which requires cooperation with many other positions, among which are the ATC Unit’s service members. “Our main mission is taking a small airspace with numerous aircraft and synchronizing them in various exercises and operations”, said Maj. T’, Instruction Department Commander at the ATC Unit. “Another unique characteristic of the IDF and the IAF is the ability to operate in complex spaces in short amounts of time. For example, the Mount Dov theatre. Three countries border there – Israel, with military outposts and civilian settlements; Lebanon; and Syria. In this space, we are required to operate aerial forces, evacuating helicopters, attacking and drilling aircraft – everything we need in order to perform the IAF’s operational missions”.

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The northern theatre is home to copious enemies, and aircrew members flying in the airspace describe a feeling different to flight in the southern theatre. The enemy’s abilities are more advanced. In the field of unexpected events, the ATC Unit is exposed to the events in their first moments.

“An unexpected event is comprised of several stages”, elaborated Maj. T’. “The initial information usually comes from the ground forces – either the ATC Unit or service members from the 210st Division, which is situated on the border with Syria. After establishing an overview of the situation, the second stage requires actuating the force. When we controllers receive a piece of information regarding an unusual event, we immediately contact the IAF Control Center. In addition, the ATC Unit has the ability to scramble aerial forces to the area. In some unexpected events the ATC Unit will scramble aerial forces from the ground, while in others they will divert aerial forces already in the area to the current operation”.