In a bilateral scenario which consists one of the IAF’s focal points of training in 2016, the combat squadrons battle head to head. Amongst the advantages that it holds are: operation under a veil of uncertainty and the attempt to get into your enemy’s head. How to create an operational, creative and safe exercise?

Tal Giladi | Translation: Ohad Zeltzer Zubida

The “Bat” and “Negev” Squadrons that operate the “Sufa” (F-16I) and the “Edge of the Spear” Squadron that operates the “Baz” (F-15) recently trained for a bilateral scenario by having two “blue” squadrons face each other, while one squadron simulates as an enemy attacker and the other as the defender of the country’s skies. After years of being trained for in low intensity, today the bilateral scenario has a significant place in the IAF 2016 training program.

Blue V.S Blue

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“Today it is difficult to surprise a pilot who has been flying over five years”

In the classic training method, the “blue” force faces the “red” force simulated by the force’s aggressor squadron, the “Flying Dragon” Squadron. Its purpose is to provide an exercise based on possible scenarios drawn from existent intel and provide the aircrew members with practice in flying the aircraft, finding and attacking targets, flying in formation etc. The “red” squadron usually hosts the training “blue” squadrons and plans the exercise in accordance with their level and afterwards provides the training squadrons with advice and conclusions with the goal of improving abilities and performance. In the bilateral method, the mental factor of equality is added, meaning that both participating squadrons want to win, one wants to penetrate the area the other is protecting and attack targets and the other – to intercept their aircraft and prevent them from penetrating. Thus a simulation of a war scenario is created: you know your missions, but not the next step the enemy will take. Against it, you have only your skills.

Beyond abilities such as studying the enemy, tactic planning, debriefing and leading and performing maneuvers in the air, in this scenario characteristics like creativity, flexibility and daring are rewarded. Besides a smart, thinking, reacting, motivated enemy facing you, there are other elements borrowed from the operational challenges the fighter division trains for, such as flying under SAM batteries fire and electronic warfare. “Today, it is difficult to surprise the average Israeli pilot who has been flying over five years”, stated Maj. Elad, Head of Fighter Jet Training Department. “A bilateral scenario, with its competitive nature, challenges the aircrews and is an extreme exercise for them as they do not know what the enemy’s next step is, a factor which requires them to experience the mental state this situation requires”.

Blue V.S Blue

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Staying in Line

Bilateral scenarios aren’t new to the IAF and have been heavily trained for in the past, but, its disadvantages brought the IAF to dramatically lessen its frequency. At the head of the rational was the fact that the probability of safety incidents rises in such scenarios as a result of the aircrews heightened motivation (a byproduct of competition) many aircraft in the air and loose restrictions. Following, there is the difficulty to debrief each squadron’s performance. “The ultimate goal which allowed us to reinstate the scenario and enjoy it’s advantages is maintaining safety”, clarified Maj. Elad. The debriefing of the squadron’s performances was carried out by the director of the exercise, the Southern ATC Unit, which consisted of a “white” force which didn’t fly and judged what happened in the air. Additionally, in such a complex scenario, the air traffic controllers’ bird’s eye view’ of the situation allows them to prevent safety incidents.

The ATC Unit in Ouvda AFB, which serves as the ATC Division’s training center, accompanied the bilateral exercise and among the green overalls in the briefing rooms you could spot grey air traffic controller overall. The controllers participated in briefings and debriefing the squadrons held with the goal of better understanding the needs of the squadrons and strengthening the trust between them. “The meeting between an ATC and a pilots helps us understand exactly what kind of information the pilots needs”, explained Lt. Col. (Res) Ronen from the ATC Unit. “It isn’t correct to exchange all information in the sky, but only the information valuable to the success of the mission”.

Blue V.S Blue

Photography: Hagar Amibar