Following the ejection of an F-16 aircrew over the Mediterranean in 2013, a new naval extraction model has been developed by the “Nocturnal Birds” Squadron, which operates the “Yas’ur” CH-53 helicopters
July 7, 2013. In the midst of an intensive training exercise, a technical malfunction rises in the engine of an F-16 that causes the pilot and WSO to eject from the jet over the Mediterranean. As they parachuted down, a siren was heard in the “Nocturnal Birds” Squadron, which operates the “Yas’ur” CH-53. A helicopter transporting SAR Unit 669 Operators was dispatched and the search began. A few minutes later, the “Yas’ur” was already hovering above the aircrew and the 669 Operators were pulling them out of the water.
As a part of the learning and conclusion drawing process from the incident, a new naval extraction model was developed in order to provide better response to wounded individuals in need of quick rescue from the water, while maximizing the abilities of the special operators. The debriefing and conclusion led the “Nocturnal Birds” Squadron, in cooperation with Op HQ, to build an “Operator Naval Jump” model.
“We understood that naval extraction takes us more time than we would expect. In addition, when 669 operators reach the aircrew in the water, they are tired and less focused, after a long swim from the helicopter. The new model that was developed is more effective and better utilizes the operators”, explained Maj. Dor, Deputy Commander of the “Nocturnal Birds” Squadron.
Fast and Effective Extraction
The risks entailed in naval activity are numerous, therefore, the arrival to the aircrew in the water must be performed quickly and smoothly. The new jump method shortens the time of arrival and is a simple solution to this need. “The new model, as opposed to the old one, shortens the time of arrival to the aircrew in the water and simplifies the process” compared Maj. Dor.
In the old model, the rescue crane installed on the front door of the helicopter had a central role in the ASR (Air-Sea-Rescue) process. “The suspension of the 669 Operators into the water was performed via the crane. They would connect to it, repel down the cable into the ocean and disconnect. This is a clumsy method that wastes a lot of time. Besides the operators jumping out of the helicopter instead of repelling, nothing has changed in the process”.
Throughout the course of the rescue, the helicopter keeps a safe distance from the aircrew in the water in order to avoid hurting them. “In every SAR mission and in ASR missions in particular, we try to get the operators to the rescuee at the peak of their energy and carry the aircrew on their backs to the helicopter. The airborne mechanics, who are responsible for the cargo hold, make sure that the jump is safe and the pilots point the front side of the helicopter toward the rescues. This helps the operators understand what direction they need to swim to and in this manner we improve the quickness and effectiveness of the process”.
The data speaks for itself: using the old model, 669 operators would reach the aircrew in the water in minutes from the moment the helicopter stopped, while the new model proves that it is possible to do it in seconds. “It is important to understand that the affectivity of the operators isn’t measured only in minutes”, clarified Maj. Dor.
Jump into the Deep End
The extraction of the F-16 aircrew in 2013 was performed properly and an hour after ejecting, they were in the hospital receiving care. The question arises: what was the motive for developing a new ASR method?
“The trigger was time and the understanding that there might be a better and more effective method that didn’t yet exist in the IAF”, answered Maj. Dor while giving us a peek into the development process of a new idea: “It was very long and included attempts to jump the operators from different heights and different places in the helicopter. For example, we tried to jump them from the crew door, by the cockpit and not only from the ramp. In addition, we tried to perform the jump in different angles in relation to the aircrew in the water. Our squadron is the one that performed the extraction of the pilot and WSO in 2013, but the conclusions of that mission were integrated in the rest of the IAF’s transport helicopter squadrons”.
In the coming months, the squadron personnel will train their sister squadron, the “Leaders of the Night” Squadron, which also operates the “Yas’ur”, so until the end of the year, the entire division is expected to be qualified to perform the new method.