Last week, the IAF and GOC Army HQ held a joint training exercise with the United States Marine Corps, which clarified the challenges that the forces face when providing air support

Eitam Almadon & Ofri Aharon

The “Noble Shirley” Joint Training Exercise, held by the IAF and GOC Army HQ with the U.S Marine Corps has come to an end. The exercise, which was held in Israel for the fourth time and simulated various missions, trained Israeli and American helicopters and was led by the “Leaders of the Night” Squadron, which operates the “Ya’sur” (CH-53) helicopter in Tel-Nof AFB.

Israeli-American Cooperation on the Ground and in the Air

Photography: Celia Garion

Learning from Each other
The American forces arrived in Israel aboard an amphibious warfare ship, which also transported Bell UH-1 transport helicopters and Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters. Capt. Yoav from the “Magic Touch” Squadron, which operates “Peten” (Apache) attack helicopters, explained that one of the exercise’s main objectives was to maximize mutual learning, while providing an excellent training environment.

“Besides the IAF’s strategic interest in international cooperation, we share knowledge in order to improve our training capabilities”, shared Lt. Ofir, the exercise leader from the “Leaders of the Night” Squadron. “In the week that preceded the exercise, we held three mutual learning days in which we shared combat doctrines, examined how each side performs different missions and prepared for sorties”.

“The preparations for the exercise focused on planning all of the aerial scenarios. We held many discussions and meetings, some with our American partners”. Lt. Ofir added that planning scenarios with foreign forces is quite different to planning routine scenarios. “The Americans fly differently, use different fuel, can fly a different amount of combatants and carry different weapons”.

Israeli-American Cooperation on the Ground and in the Air

Photography: Celia Garion

Between the Ground and the Sky
As part of the joint training exercise, which was designed to train the IAF’s Special Forces Units and the IDF’s Ground Arm in cooperation with the U.S Marine Corps, the forces simulated helicopter transportation beyond enemy lines, urban warfare and guerilla warfare. They also rehearsed extraction of injured personnel from deep, threatened territory. The ground warfare training was performed in the Tze’elim Urban Warfare Training Center, which simulates urban terrain familiar to the marines, who have operated in similar conditions throughout the years.

“This is my first time in Israel, and the first time I’m training with Israeli forces, and it’s very exciting”, said Major Michael Stansberry, Assistant Officer in Charge of the Exercise. “In preparation for the exercise, we wanted to sustain an enduring relationship with Israel and work with the Israeli ground forces in order to see what they had to offer in terms of tactics, techniques, procedures and integrations with aerial forces in terms of close air support”.

Israeli-American Cooperation on the Ground and in the Air

Photography: Celia Garion

Strengthening the Cooperation
The IAF and Marine Corps Aerial Forces’ activity focused on close air support for ground forces. The “Yas’ur” and UH-1 helicopters were responsible for transporting ground forces and equipment, while the “Peten” (Apache) and AH-1 helicopters focused on fire support.

“The exercise, which was designed to prepare the American forces for operational activity, also benefited the IAF, created a mutual language between the forces and strengthened the cooperation between the two. In addition, it exhibited the IAF’s strength by means of precision and professionalism”, said Lt. Ofir.

In the exercise the forces faced various scenarios and many challenges. “The Americans are used to different procedures and to flying in relatively large areas in comparison to our minimal aerial territory”, explained Lt. Ofir. “We also had to deal with the lingual gap. Throughout the exercise we had to abandon our mother tongue and perform as English speakers in order to communicate with the American forces”.

Israeli-American Cooperation on the Ground and in the Air

Photography: Celia Garion

Partners
Throughout the years, the cooperation between the forces has been built on mutual learning and cross-fertilization. The two learn from one another, an element which strengthens each side’s operational preparedness. “The area we trained in is different than the one our partners are used to flying in”, explained Capt. Yoav. “The scenario allowed us to learn how they fly in formation, learn about the way they communicate and see what we do similarly and what we do differently”.

The United States Marine Corps Aviation is the air component of the USMC, and its main mission is air support of the USMC’s ground missions by means of fire support, air strikes, electronic warfare and aerial patrols. Despite the vast differences between the IAF and USMC, the two organizations share many mutual challenges, specifically in regard to air support and urban warfare. “The IAF was very efficient and helped us with all of the changes”, said Maj. Stansberry. “This exercise is a great opportunity to get out here and train with the Israelis, see how they operate and learn from it. We will absolutely maintain a positive relationship because that’s what we’re here to do”.

Israeli-American Cooperation on the Ground and in the Air

Photography: Celia Garion