Over the past few days, the UAV division has been operating around the clock and participating in the mutual effort to extinguish the fires spreading around Israel. The operators identify the main fires, search for arson suspects and communicate the information to the forces on the ground and in the air
“I finished a training sortie and understood that my house was on fire. I received permission from my commander, left everything and went home to help. When I got home I learned that the fire in my house had already been extinguished, but I still wanted to help so I made my way to a police barricade in the area”, recalled Lt. Ofek, an Instructor in the UAV Academy and a UAV Operator. “I told the officers that I am a UAV operator from the IAF and asked if we can help. I was escorted by the police to the command post where I contacted IAF ATC and my squadron. We operated to help extinguish the fires and even diverted an operational aircraft that was in the air to the mission”.
Over the past few days, while fires rage across the country, the IAF’s UAV and surveillance squadrons have been operating around the clock and assisting the police and firefighting services in a number of missions such as directing aerial and ground firefighting forces to the main fires and searching for potential arson suspects. They began with mapping the fires and understanding the winds and their impact on the fires. “It got to a point where we looked for burning houses and directed the firefighters in the field to them”, explained Lt. Ofek. “The team sat in the mission station and sent the command post images and addresses of the houses, and we in turn communicated the information to the forces in the field”.
Protecting Our Home
The IAF’s Cooperation Unit established a makeshift HQ in the police and firefighting command post. At this point, the security forces began understanding that these weren’t all coincidental fires, and the UAVs were required to increase their activity accordingly.
“The ‘Eitan’ (Heron TP) flies very high, so we can see very large areas. This ability helps control of a number of areas and by doing so – efficiently direct the aerial and ground forces to the relevant areas”, explained Lt. Rom, a UAV Operator from the “White Eagle” Squadron that operates the “Eitan” (Heron TP) UAV. “We received information from the police about a fire and we searched for its exact coordinates. The minute we found them, we directed to forces to it. The squadron’s contribution is significant to the firefighting effort and the cooperation between us and the ground forces is excellent”.
“It’s amazing to see the devotion of our reserve personnel and operators. Everybody understands that this mission means protecting our home”, shared Lt. Ofek. “We are always in the air; our work won’t end until we put the last fire out”.