The F-16I squadrons training exercise was conducted this week and began the new training year. In 2016: emphasis on mental preparation and functionality under fire

Nadav Shaham and Tal Giladi | Translated by: Ofri Aharon

The four squadrons of the F-16I “Sufa” (Hebrew for Storm) joined forces for a training exercise last night, which officially began the 2016 training period of the combat division. Throughout the training exercise, the participants practiced two of the principles that will guide the training exercises over the next year: two-sided trainings – meaning “Blue” force vs. “Blue” force and mental preparation for combat under fire.

“Air crews usually compete against a ‘Red’ squadron which reflects the threats they are likely to encounter”, explained First Lt. Rotem, officer of readiness in the “Bat” Squadron which led the exercise. “A two-sided exercise is characterized by the fact that nothing is anticipated. When practicing against an aggressor squadron, we plan beforehand when and on who to launch a missile – but this type of training holds a surprise factor and every side does the best it can in order to win, just like in real war. This is our way to stay sharp without backsliding. You have to respond to tricks and initiatives of whoever is leading and try to overpower them”.

“In the next few months, the frequency of the two sided training exercises will continue to rise, in the F-16I Division and in the IAF”, stated Maj. Elad, Head of Combat Training Department in the Air Division.

Training with the F-16I

Photo by: Ayelet Eder

We don’t stay indifferent
During the night sorties, they cooperated with the SAM batteries from the “Patriot” Division. The F-16I aircrews were briefed minutes before the mission, “In order for you to be able to say that the mission went as planned, you must bomb the mission control station, the batteries’ radar and launcher and successfully avoid the ‘Patriot’s missiles”.

Other than avoiding missiles and aerial strikes, the aircrews were required to use techniques to successfully “deceive” the interceptors. The “Patriot” interceptors weren’t going to stay indifferent: “The air crews are planning on attacking us with great force and we don’t plan on staying indifferent”, the operation officer in the battery stated with a smile.

“The F-16I is the newest aircraft in the IAF thus it receives the most advanced weapons”, added Maj. Tamir, Commander of the “Bat” Squadron’s Technical Division. “As the technical division, we are required to control multiple types of missions. A strong technical division such as our own can successfully complete any mission, even during operations. Together with Ramon’s airbase maintenance division we can promise that every aircraft that leaves the hangar and returns receives the best technical response”.

Training with the F-16I

Photo by: Ayelet Eder

In 2016: more mental preparations
The combat division constitutes of a central component in the IAF’s activity: in the field of defense with aerial defense against multiple threats: enemy aircraft, UAVs, cruise missiles and of course the field of attack. Thus, the combat division trains a lot for these missions. An example of such is a training exercise conducted in 2015, in which the force simulated penetration of a UAV from Lebanon in to Israeli territory. The IAF’s combat aircraft were required to shoot down the UAVs using a variety of means.

The combat division intensively practices aerial defense missions that include tracking the skies and discovering enemy aircraft that try to penetrate Israeli territory. “It was important to conduct the workshop to train for the IAF’s main mission, aerial defense and to raise the division’s readiness for enemies”, stated Capt. Ori from the “Knights of the Orange Tail” Squadron.

In 2016, the training exercises will focus on operational continuity and mental preparation. “The arena has changed and we are expecting to face more threats in the next war, we need to make sure the aircrews understand this”, stated Maj. Elad. “We prepare mentally by conducting two-sided trainings, such as F-16I trainings, in which we simulate an enemy which responds, thinks and will try to shoot you down”.In the current training exercise, the participants experienced the mental hardships of war. “The training focused on the mental aspect. Training against an enemy with unknown weaponry and plan”, explained Maj. Elad.

Training with the F-16I

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