The IAF’s Central Control Unit operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In the center of its activity stand young Control Officers who control the IAF’s activity in real time. Here is a peek into the work of the young enlisted soldiers who have the ability to scramble fighter jets
The IAF’s Air Operations Division’s Central Control Unit is called “The IAF’s beating heart”. The unit’s personnel observe every IAF operation from IAF HQ, in routine and combat. They operate from the IAF’s control stations, from which the IAF’s real time operational activity is managed and observed and are responsible for planned and unplanned missions. The unit is manned 24 hours a day, all year long.
When every second counts, when a fighter jet needs to be scrambled for a strike or a hiker needs to be evacuated from a dangerous situation, the IAF’s Control Officers are the ones who give the O.K.
The IAF’s Control Officers, who, despite their title are in fact enlisted soldiers, manage and control the IAF’s activity at any given moment alongside a senior officer – the station commander. The Control Officers convey the orders from HQ to the various AFBs, scramble aircraft and coordinate all of the details regarding every operational, event in the IAF.
The Control Officers undergo a two and a half month long course in Ouvda AFB, in which they are divided into different disciplines. They become professionals in their designated fields and upon graduation begin their Operational Training Course and undergo an exceptionally long qualification period which includes dozens of practical and theoretical tests. All this is done while simultaneously manning stations in accordance with their experience.
The IAF’s Control Officers have always been enlisted personnel and their responsibilities have only multiplied throughout the years. Only a few advance to the demanding role of Master Control Officer and serve as the Head of the Control Center’s direct advisers and assistants. Corporal Noa is one of the few enlisted soldiers who were promoted to Master Control Officer. “We are required to adhere to the highest standards”, she shared. “The role requires eloquence, the ability to operate under pressure, make split decisions and work with the most senior elements such as the IAF Commander or Head of the General Staff. If there is a situation outside of the IAF, we are the ones who receive it and decide to scramble a force or not, an element that directly impacts the result in the field”.
According to Maj. Asaf, Commander of the Central Control Unit’s Fighter Division: “At any given moment, the IAF is simultaneously involved in a number of missions and someone needs to control them. The Control Officers are the ones who make decisions and control the force. They are a significant part of the IAF’s chain of control. The responsibility that rests on the Control Officers’ shoulders is immense and the price of a mistake is as large. They need to be expertly familiar with all parts of the IDF, as they represent the IAF on many occasions. The Control Officer is the one that sets the mission into motion, scrambles the aircraft and is exposed to the center of the IAF’s activity”.