Last week, the Helicopter division trained for battle in Lebanon: combat and transport helicopters trained for multiple missions such as extraction of ejecting pilots, surprise operational scenarios at the border and cooperation with ground forces

Nadav Shaham & Tal Giladi | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida

This summer will mark 10 years since the “Second Lebanon” War, a war which began following the killing of three IDF soldiers and the kidnapping of another two, in which the IAF attacked thousands of Hezbollah terror targets in Lebanon. The results and consequences of the war left a deep impression on the IAF’s preparation for activity in the Northern Theatre and as a result of said changes, the IAF trained for combat and execution of mission in Lebanese territory.

One of the most significant missions executed by the training exercise’s participants was common to both combat and transport divisions: transportation of ground forces into enemy territory. In this mission, the transport helicopters land the forces and the combat helicopters cover them. “The main challenge in this training exercise was to join forces under threat, understand the bigger picture, deal with unplanned changes in the scenarios and finally assist the forces come home safely”, said , Lt. Col. R’, the Head of the Combined Training Exercises Branch.

A Comprehensive Helicopter Division Training Exercise

Photography: Hagar Amibar

The Helicopter division also trained for surprise events: ground forces hitting a mine or penetration of terrorists or enemy aircraft into Israeli territory are only two examples of events that may occur in all areas at all times. The element of surprise is significant in events such as these, as they occur without warning and are full of uncertainty. In such cases, time is of an essence and the mental pressure is large.

“In events such as this, there is more than meets the eye”, explained Lt. Col. Matan, the “Hornet” Squadron Commander, which operates the “Apache Longbow” helicopters. “You never know what these people who cross the border are looking for. Do they want to kidnap and kill a soldier? Do they want to stop a car and drive to Tel-Aviv? In the incident in which five terrorists penetrated Israeli territory through the sea during Operation ‘Protective Edge’, we had to recalculate our actions and understand that we have to stop the them”.

The exercise included a number of emphasized subjects from the IAF 2016 training program. Preparation for assistance of maneuvering in the front and depth, protection of borders, operational flexibility when fighting in conditions of uncertainty and combat in urban battlefields are only a few of the subjects practiced in the exercise. In addition, the exercise was defined as an exercise for aircrews training for missions in Lebanon.

A Comprehensive Helicopter Division Training Exercise

Photography: Hagar Amibar

Routine Exercises
The IAF holds routine exercises throughout the year which deal with combat scenarios in the Lebanon theatre. Last month, an airborne supplies transportation training exercise was held in which parachuting of equipment to infantry forces in deep enemy territory was practiced.

In January, led by the Northern Command, the IAF trained for a full combat scenario in the Northern theatre. All of the command’s units took part in the exercise and trained for combat in the Syrian and Lebanese fronts simultaneously, in cooperation with the Navy. The IAF held a simulative, ground exercise with the goals of improvement of planning and control processes in combat in the northern theatre while emphasizing the preparation and assistance in maneuvering in the front a depth, improvement in production processes and target strikes in real time and improvement of IAF ability to fight under fire.

The training exercise simulated escalation at the Lebanese and Syrian borders which came to war which included ground maneuvers. “The scenarios trained for were planned to be complex, busy and harder, in order to create an optimal exercise for the participants”, said Col. Or, the Head of the IAF Training Department.

A Comprehensive Helicopter Division Training Exercise

Photography: Hagar Amibar