Flying in mountainous and rocky terrain is no simple task for helicopter pilots. During a war and while facing an enemy, flying in these conditions becomes significantly more challenging. This week, the IAF’s helicopter squadrons trained in the northern Israeli arena and faced a wide variety of operational challenges. The majority of IAF bases are located in Southern Israel, an area known for its desert landscape and level grounds, which are ideal for helicopter landing zones. However, the northern arena, that is becoming increasingly more operational, has different qualities – rocky terrain and varying heights. This week, the IAF’s Helicopter Division carried out joint training on the northern front to prepare for the next war.
All of the IAF’s helicopter squadrons, excluding the 193rd (“Defenders of the West”) naval reconnaissance squadron, participated in the exercise led by the 190th (“Magic Touch”) Squadron that operates “Peten” (Apache) helicopters. “This training is designed to prepare us for various scenarios that we’ll likely face in the course of the next war”, explains Lt. N., leader of the exercise from the 124th (“Rolling Sword”) Squadron that operates Black Hawk helicopters. During the drill, aircrew members encountered a variety of operational scenarios – medical evacuation, rescuing downed pilots, readiness for special operations, and a joint flight of transport and attack helicopters.
“The exercise’s leaders prepare surprise scenarios for the participating aircrew members. They place them in operational dilemmas and tough decision-making situations. If they decide to act – they must chose the optimal course of action while facing various threats”, describes Capt. A, leader of the exercise from the 114th (“Night Leaders”) that operates the The 115th (“Flying Dragon”) Squadron, the IAF’s aggressor squadron, also took part in the exercise to simulate enemy forces in combat. “The 115th squadron simulates the scenario of downed pilots and positions threats that activate the helicopter’s self-defense systems in the field. The administrative department also simulates other aircraft such as RPAVs and fighter jets.”
During the drill, the helicopter squadrons operated with the IDF’s 188th Division, to prepare for possible cooperation in real-time. IDF created several possible scenarios that might occur in a war, some in cooperation with the 36th IDF Division.As the exercise is conducted with combatants in the cargo hold, the entire transport helicopter’s crew drills the tasks they carry out in wartime scenarios. The crew chief drills his role in the mission – loading the force as quickly as possible, and placing them alongside a team of Unit 669 operatives that treats injured soldiers and managing the cargo hold mid-flight. The exercise is important for the pilots as well – flying with a full cargo hold is different, as the helicopter is heavier.