A unique course teaches air traffic controllers to cope with the tremendous responsibility. Furthermore, air traffic controllers’ service period is extended by one year

Tal Giladi

For air traffic controllers, certification to perform Attack ATC is the highest of professional achievements. “When examining the journey of an air traffic controller, the most complex operational stage is Attack ATC Course, after two years of service in the ATC Unit”, explained Lt. Col. Shay, Commander of Ouvda AFB’s ATC Unit which serves as the division’s training center and hosts various courses. The essence of the role is the air traffic controller’s ability to comprehensively understand the battlefield and in it, maximize the IAF’s capabilities.

On Their Shoulders

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Know the Force’s Priorities
Attack ATC training combines theoretical and practical training in which the air traffic controllers familiarize themselves with the IAF’s target bank and learn how to validate targets received from the controller in IAF HQ with operations in the air. “Attack ATCs receive arena responsibility, they are required to maintain comprehensive knowledge of the IAF and know the force’s priorities”, added Lt. Col. Shay. “That means executing an attack while maneuvering changes that appear in the field, such as weather or threats. They are also responsible for safety in combat, because taking risks in combat is necessary, but not unnecessary ones”. 

The concluding stage of the course is controlling a low altitude formation with the widest variety of flight platforms. Low altitude is challenging because it is characterized by restrictions and friction with the other aircraft. The next stage is connecting different elements in the executing axis, for example, between the recon aircraft and the attack aircraft. “In the sky defense mission, the ATC makes critical decisions regarding the interception and destruction of the threat. In contrast, the Attack ATC’s center of gravity is the execution of sorties which becomes challenging when faced with a multitude of sorties and their complexity”.

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The ATC Simulator
Three aircraft take off to attack a target, they are required to perform a high-risk dive and it is decided that they will dive one after the other in order to fire their weapons. The matter of the amount of time they spend exposed to threats makes the Attack ATC a crucial strategic element. They must create a correct attack process which minimizes risks while completing the mission. “The aircrew members know the commands they received, but they aren’t always aware of the IAF’s prioritization for each mission”, added Lt. Raz, the Attack ATC Course Commander. “They wait for the air traffic controller to approve the aircraft to approach the area in accordance with the priorities”.  
These situations and others come to life in the ATC simulator, where the air traffic controllers receive practical tools for coping with combat and routine scenarios. “In the simulator we give an incorrect target and examine the trainee’s steps”, shared Lt. Raz. “Mistakes made in training are less likely to be made in combat”.

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From Now On: Air Traffic Controllers’ Service Period is Extended to Five Years
The ATC Division’s human resource policy is undergoing a significant change. The new generation of air traffic controllers will be required to serve a five year period instead of four, similarly to UAV Operators. “Training an air traffic controller to the point of full operational capability takes about a total of two and a half years”, said Col. Eran, Commander of the ATC Division. “In order for their training to be fully realized in operational and instructional activity, we decided to simultaneously extend their service period and broaden their benefits”.