Helicopter Squadrons deployed to "Ouvda" Airbase for four days in order to train for unexpected operational events, such as terrorists or enemy aircraft penetration to Israeli territory. "The training exercise simulated the operational scenario and the way we should act in it"
"I understand that you are divided into two forces. Do you need evacuation?"
"Affirmative, I need evacuation. I have one killed two severely injured and one critical".
"Five minutes, prepare the injured".
The radio became silent. The helicopters are on their way to the waypoint where the force is waiting for them, somewhere in the Negev Desert.
"Report when you hear me", the pilot said on the radio.
Suddenly, two helicopters emerge above the mountains and begin circling the force while releasing flares. A transport helicopter lands in order to collect the injured with the cover of an attack helicopter and the aircrews conclude an intense and successful training exercise as a part of the Helicopter Division's mutual learning training exercise.
A mutual learning training exercise, led by the "Flying Dragon" aggressor Squadron, held last week, with Sikorsky CH-35 Squadrons, "Blackhawk" Squadrons and AH-64 "Apache" Squadrons deployed to "Ouvda" Airbase.
The scenarios practiced are defined as "Fence Events", which begin from penetrations and escalate as unexpected operational events in which aircraft from different platforms took part. The transport helicopters flew beside attack helicopters, UAVs and in some cases even combat jets.
"We don't practice scenarios such as these every day, so the exercise was very important", said Lt. Shachaf, the exercise leader from the "Rolling Sword Squadron", which operates "Blackhawk" Helicopters. "This is what the operational structure will look like and this is how we should operate".
"The damage potential is high"
The recent strengthening of terror organizations on all fronts has intensified the relevance of operation while dealing with unexpected emergency events, such as penetration of terrorists or hostile aircraft into Israeli territory. One of the prominent examples of such is the sequence of terror attacks in Southern Israel, near Eilat, which took place in 2011 during which seven Israeli civilians were murdered by a terrorist squad which penetrated Israel from Sinai.
"Unexpected operational events constitute of one of the main missions of the Helicopter Division, with our mission being transporting the Special Forces to the field and halt it by blocking main arteries in the targets area and prevent its development", explained Lt. Shachaf. "Additionally, the mission of rescuing and evacuating injured individuals which becomes particularly relevant in the scenarios we practiced is ours".
"The main characteristic of unexpected operational events is that each event is different and there is much uncertainty", added Capt. Avshalom from the "Flying Dragon" Squadron. "Therefore, this is an important scenario to train for. We need to know how each side acts in a scenario such as this one, what it can contribute and implement the cooperation activity".
Inter Division Cooperation
In addition to the transport and attack helicopters, a UAV Squadron took part in the exercise. "Today, it is known that we need to combine helicopters and UAVs in exercises, because they execute the same mission together in the field", clarified Lt. Guy, an Air Traffic Controller from the "Flying Dragon" Squadron.
UAV Squadrons, which remotely control the aircraft at a distance from a mission station, don't usually deploy to other bases but the "First UAV" Squadron which operates the "Heron" UAV, deployed to "Ouvda" Airbase especially for the Shared learning workshop. A mission station was moved from "Palmahim" Airbase to the Southernmost IAF Airbase for the purpose of mutual briefing and debriefing of the operators and the participants from the helicopters and fighters squadrons.
"This is the essence of mutual learning. There is no substitute for a debriefing done face to face", explains Maj. Omer, Deputy Squadron Commander. "The cooperation between us and the helicopters is not a rare occurrence, whether in ejecting pilot extraction in which the UAV searches for the pilot, directs the helicopters and oversee the rescue, or in assistance of helicopter and jet fighters missions. Our participation in the workshop allows us to acquaint ourselves with all of the divisions in the missions that we'll meet in combat".
During the exercise, the helicopter pilots practiced flight with the fighter division.
"It was a surprise flight. We thought we were on the way to an attack mission and suddenly our mission was changed and we were asked to assist the combat helicopter division in an unexpected operational fence event", described Lt. Lior, a pilot in the "Negev" Squadron which operates the F-16I "Sufa" jet fighters.
"This is the first time we included a cooperation with combat jets in training", added Capt. Avshalom. "We executed a joint sortie which surrounded the event. For the first time, all of the divisions operated around the same event. There is an understanding today in the IAF that it is a good thing that we must practice more. The better the divisions know each other, the better the missions are executed".
"The trick is to create workshops which combine good practice for the squadrons and good lessons for the operational headquarters which is responsible for their activation", explained Capt. Idan. "Already from the planning stage, we were connected to the operational headquarters and to the need of the participating squadrons, in order to build the most effective exercise".