During four days, the transport helicopter squadrons trained with the SAR 669 Unit for extraction of survivors from the sea – a complex scenario they have to be prepared for at all times
Extraction of survivors is one of the most complex missions the IAF deals with and it prepares for it accordingly, multiple extraction exercises are executed throughout the year with the participation of the IAF’s transport helicopter squadrons. The “Blackhawks” from the Palmahim Airbase and the CH-35s from the Tel-Nof Airbase in cooperation with the SAR 669 Unit, held a comprehensive exercise last week, in order to train for helicopter extraction scenarios. “In the exercise we trained for extraction of survivors from naval vessels and from open water. Some of the SAR combatants were in the water, simulating survivors and other combatants extracted them by cable”, explained Capt. M, Head of the Helicopter Training Department in IAF HQ.
For the helicopter aircrews, the extraction missions are far from simple, because they often cannot see the survivors and have to hover over the vessel according to the airborne mechanic’s directions. The pilots are required to fly the helicopter to the extraction point in adverse weather conditions, like a stormy sea and bad visibility, which make the identification of the victims difficult. “We have to hover above the vessel despite its constant moving and talk to the airborne mechanic who directs us toward the target. The work with the mechanic is critical in this mission”, elaborated Capt. M.
A History of Rescues
The last extraction from a naval vessel was during the 2006 “Second Lebanon” War, when a C-802 “Silkworm” missile launched by the “Hezbollah” terror group hit a Navy missile boat. Four soldiers were killed in the incident and many survivors needed rescue, which was carried out by an IAF transport helicopter.
SAR Unit 669 execute numerous sea rescues throughout the years, so their abilities must be sharp and ready for scenarios such as this. They recently executed an exercise in which they simulated extraction of injured soldiers from the deck of a submarine and a missile boat. “Maritime extraction exercises are always unique and challenging. Because of the complex conditions at sea, the combatants undergo a thorough preparation period before each exercise in which they prepare in pools and in the sea”, explained Maj. Omri from the unit.