Most attack sorties executed by the IAF happen overnight. Flying at night gives the aircrews a significant advantage in most of their missions: from precise attacks to gathering intelligence, while minimizing the possibility of attacking innocent people in comparison to flight in the day time and lessening the danger to aircrews.
„A significant percent of the sorties executed by the squadrons happen at night”, stated First Lt. Itai from „The Scorpion” Squadron, which operates the F-16C/D fighter jet and conducted the „reversed” week in which day time was considered night and vice versa. „Thus we must preserve and improve the night flight capabilities”.
The technologies and means that are available to the combat units of the IAF in the modern era allow for most attacks to be carried out at night, in a manner that the IAF was not capable of in the past.
Now the pilots and weapon system operators can fly in harsh conditions, for example, when it is almost impossible to see the target while flying in a clouds or during sand storms.
Seeing an empty squadron during the day is a rare sight during a routine week. Nevertheless, „The Scorpion”s squadron’s hallways were empty in the mornings. During the „reverse week” training exercise, the squadrons’ routine completely changes. The squadron’s soldiers had to stay awake throughout the night, a time that without supervision could negatively affect the flight. „Everything is thoroughly controlled. We manage the soldiers’ hours of sleep, we make sure they are sleeping enough hours before each flight and that the aircrews rest before they drive home”, emphasized First Lt. Itai.
The technicians are also required to work at night with the same alertness and precision that are expected from them during the day. „Throughout the night trainings we are divided into groups, in which some prepare the airplane during the day and the others are responsible for the flight time at night”, said Maj. Eitan Golan, Technical Officer of „The Scorpion” Squadron. A week of night trainings is likely to cause exhaustion. In order to withstand the pressure, the soldiers have to manage their times precisely. „We pay attention to the little details, we ensure every soldier is sleeping well and eating enough”, described Maj. Golan.
Because of the limited visibility and the natural fatigue of the soldiers at night, the mission demands more effort. „We work extra carefully and check the details attentively. We keep reminding the soldiers throughout the training to be alert and pay attention to every detail”.
The training exercise was conducted in the north of Israel. „We are preparing for new threats in the area that may be game changers. We must be prepared for the change and adapt the flight method”, stated First Lt. Itai.
Because of the Civil War taking place in Syria, the familiar Main Battle Tanks threat changed with the entry of terrorist organizations in the arena. „The map in the arena has completely changed. Thus, we are training the aircrews to cope with any possible surprise”, emphasized First Lt. Itai.
Author: Nadav Shaham | Translated by: Ofri Aharon