This month, after being put on hold for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the “Onisilos Gedeon” exercise was held with the participation of Israeli Air Force (IAF) transport and fighter squadrons, in cooperation with the Cypriot National Guard. The National Guard of Cyprus also known as the Greek Cypriot National Guard or simply National Guard, is the joint arms military force of the Republic of Cyprus. For several years now, the IAF has conducted the bi-annual “Onisilos Gedeon” exercise in cooperation with the Cyprus Air Force. However, due to the global spread of the Coronavirus, the exercise has not been held in a year.
The Cypriot National Guard does not own any fighter jets, only helicopters, air defense, and air control systems. Greece currently maintains a garrison in the Republic of Cyprus under the designation Hellenic Force in Cyprus (ELDYK), but this is not officially part of the Cyprus military and mostly takes orders from Greece’s GEEF. Therefore, the IAF sends formations of combat aircraft to the skies over Cyprus, to enable them to train with their air defense and control systems. The exercise trains aircrews in several aspects – Aerial refueling, air control, attack missions, evading the enemy, and emergency landing, with the 119th Squadron’s main task being air-to-air combat in the skies over Cyprus.
After the dogfight, the aircrews from the 119th Squadron performed a simulated a distant attack in threatened territory.The Israeli Air Force 122nd (“Nachson”) Squadron, which operates two types of air control aircraft, sent the “Eitam” (Gulfstream G550) to the current exercise. Aircraft from both the 120th and 122nd squadrons practiced forced landing scenarios in Cyprus to enhance the emergency capabilities of both forces. The 120th Squadron’s aircraft landed in Larnaca while IAF landed in Papos after practicing mid-flight malfunctions. This allows IAF to experience landing in unfamiliar terrain and the Cypriots to drill emergency air control during such scenarios.
The 120th (“Desert Giants”) Squadron, an IAF aerial refueling squadron that operates “Re’em” (Boeing 707) aircraft, performed aerial refuelings during the exercise for almost all of the participating squadrons. A valuable part of the exercise for IAF is extended flights with aerial fueling. In order to increase efficiency, on one of the training days, IAF flew with two tankers to expand our supply. At the end of the day, aerial refueling is a kind of coordinated ‘collision’ between two moving aircraft, which requires extreme accuracy – that is IAF specialty as a squadron. The exercise’s success is measured, among other things. If IAF are unable to perform the refueling properly and sufficiently in real-time, the operating fighter jets might not be able to complete their important missions.