IAF Magazine Articles

Blue V Blue

It pumps up the adrenalin in the cockpit, develops creativity and pushes the aircrews to the edge of their abilities. After many years of absence, the two-sided training method has returned to the IAF’s fighter squadron’s program

Tal Giladi

In the past, two-sided training exercises, in which the aircrews are divided into attackers and defenders and fight against each other, was the IAF's main training method. But safety incidents and difficulties in debriefing, created such a negative perception of the method, that it was completely ceased in the IAF.

This year, the IAF Commander decided to reinstate the two-sided method. "Two-sided exercises are imperative to development of creativity, combativeness and mental flexibility and therefore will be a significant part of the IAF's 2016 training program", said Brig. Gen. Nir Barkan, Head of Air Division. "We have adapted them in order to utilize all of their advantages and simultaneously make sure that they are safe and under control".

A "Sufa" F-16I from the "Negev" Squadron | Archive Photo

No One Knows
The classic training method is a "Blue" V "Red" configuration. The "Flying Dragon", the IAF's "Red" or Aggressor Squadron simulates "reds" (enemies) and fights against the "blues", but in the two-sided method, both forces have the same objective and they are completely balanced.

"In two-sided training, everyone brings their very best to the field, no one knows what the other is planning and everyone wants to win", explained Brig. Gen. Barkan. "The tension and uncertainty are significant and qualities such as creativity, mental flexibility and the element of surprise, are all qualities that are required in war".

"Today, it is difficult to surprise a pilot that has been flying for over five years. We searched for a challenge for the aircrews which will make them fidget uncomfortably in their seats but also give them a successful experience. Two-sided training is challenging and surprising because it reflects your opponent and allows you to get in its head. In the morning you are on the defensive team and at night an attacker and vice versa", said Maj. Elad, Head of the Fighter Training Department.

In the classic training method the "Flying Dragon" Squadron simulates "reds" (enemies) and fights against the "blues" | The "Flying Dragon" Squadron, Archive Photo

The training exercise planners make sure that the simulations are of operational missions relevant to the IAF's challenges in the different theatres. "If in the past, two-sided training was a competition for the sake of competition, today, it is of a more operational character and combines attack, Air-Air combat and threatened flight", said Maj. Elad.

The way the exercise is built also contributes to the "war"-like atmosphere. "The exercise is a week long and three squadrons fight against each other like in a real war. Every flight mattered but points are accumulated. Someone who flew on the first day had to make sure that the situation was in favor of whoever flew on the second and third day and whoever flew on the fourth day, on the last mission, knew that his performance in the sortie can decide the result", said Maj. Y'. "Simultaneously, there was work being done on the ground, debriefing in this kind of exercise is no more important than the aircrews performance in the air, you have to understand what the competing squadron did in its last sortie and plan your tactics accordingly".

The "Bat" Squadron | Photography: Hagar Amibar

Organization Nation
While safety issues can be solved by means of correct risk management, the debriefing aspect still needs a lot of work.

"Two-sided training never stuck in the IAF because it is very difficult to debrief. The more planes there are in the air, the messier the aerial image becomes and as a result, the exercise could lose its relevance", explains Maj. Elad.

Advanced technology is expected to be integrated as a response to this issue and greatly improve real-time debriefing abilities. The solution will be similar to SAM Battery simulations, which are connected to the aircraft's system from a computer on the ground and simulate missiles coming at the aircraft.

Blue, White, Blue
Among the forces in a two-sided exercise, there is a "White" force responsible for refereeing everything that appends in the air from the ground in order to debrief the competing squadrons' performance in real time. This positioned was manned by the "Bat" Squadron's Command, who were positioned in Ouvda AFB's ATC Unit.

The ATC Unit personnel participated in briefs and debriefs in the two-sided exercise, in order to understand the aircrews' needs and become a power multiplier.

"We were surprised to learn that even though we are different squadrons and operate different platforms, the moves we made were similar, the language was the same and we are one Force. The competitors had creative ideas and we would wait and see the changes the squadrons made each day, how they switched between concepts", shared Maj. Y. "Just like in tennis, in which each player needs to utilize his advantages, each platforms needs to adapt its tactics to its' aircraft's abilities".

Air Traffic Controllers Beside a Pilot | Archive Photo

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