The “White Eagle” Squadron, celebrating five years since its establishment, is expected to grow in the near future: next year, new “Eitan” UAVs are expected to be absorbed in the squadron and by the end of 2020, the squadron is preparing to triple itself in size. “If we could look ten years into the future, what we are doing today will look like we were in diapers”
About 100 years ago, Israel’s national poet, Hayim Nahman Bialik, wrote „One Day”, a book which contains dozens of fairy tales based on biblical stories. In one of the stories, Bialik describes King Solomon, shortly after mastering the skill of communication with animals, calling the white eagle – king of the sky. Five days later, while sitting in the palace garden, a great gust of wind signaled the arrival of the new guest. „And before him was the white eagle, mighty and very large, emerging from between the clouds, it descended, flapped its great wings and kneeled before the king”, Bialik describes. The great White Eagle has arrived to serve the King, wisest of men.
When IAF servicemen came upon Bialik’s story, they had an epiphany: they had found the perfect name for the new „Eitan” UAV squadron, the largest aircraft in the IAF’s UAV Division. Presently, the „White Eagle” Squadron, which missions are mostly classified, is celebrating five years since its establishment, five years in which it knew moments of glory besides difficulties, based on which it rebuilt itself and rose to a new level.
Today, the squadron servicemen try not to dwell on the past and look to the near and far future, in which the „White Eagle” Squadron is expected to develop in every field. „In the passing year we have acquired more and more abilities and significant classified operational missions and next year the squadron is going to acquire additional qualifications beyond the standard intelligence missions. According to my estimate, we only use about 20% of the „Eitan’s” abilities at the moment and today, we are on the verge of a revolution”, shares Lt. Col. Ophir, the „White Eagle” Squadron Commander. „When we will look back five and ten years from now, what we are doing today will look like we were only just in the first stage, even though the squadron is functioning at its operational peak. The aircraft’s potential is strengthening. The IAF Commander ordered to multiply the squadron’s aircraft, servicemen, operations and abilities, with the target remaining simple: being a strategic and relevant squadron for any arena and in every field”.
Additional Aircraft, New Abilities and Simulator
2016 is expected to be a year of great growth for the „White Eagle” Squadron. A number of new „Eitan” UAVs are expected to be integrated into Tel-Nof Airbase in the first half of the year and will practically double the amount of missions stations, abilities and cameras. The squadron is expected to grow by 50%, as more technicians and operators are expected to join it.
By 2020, the squadron is expected to triple in the amount of aircraft in service and the aircraft to be integrated will be more advanced while the current aircraft are expected to overcome a similar upgrade. In addition, the „Eitan” Simulator that is currently positioned in IAI (Israeli Aerospace Industries) is expected to integrate into the IAF. According to Lt. Col. Ophir, „We will have ‘Eitan' instructors in the next two to three years”.
In the past few weeks, the squadron held a workshop for reservists with the goal of designing the work plan for the next three years, as the IAF’s direction is clear: more missions for the UAV division, while utilizing its relative advantages. „The IAF’s direction is as many UAV missions as possible”, shared Lt. Col. Ophir. „When we understand that this is the direction, we are going in, I see a completely different squadron in five years – honestly, I see the 'Eitan' becoming UAV division”.
„We are integrating abilities
To those who are familiar with the squadron’s history, the „White Eagle” momentum is not obvious. In 2012, right after the squadron became operational, one of the „Eitans” crashed during test flight, which completely halted the squadrons growth. „The squadron stopped flights for a long period of time and it wasn’t clear where it was going. It is safe to assume that if this event would have never occurred, we would be in a significantly better place today, but we learned a lot from it and today it’s just a part of our history”, shared Lt. Col. Ophir. „Overall, this is a young division and surprises can arise at any moment. Today, we are integrating abilities that bring risks and challenges as a part of the process and in light of the lessons we learned in the past, we are doing so in small steps, because we learned our lessons”.
In the past few months, with the northern arena 'heating up', the „Eitan” participated in operational activity as it proved the UAV’s advantages in the IAF, advantages that will only grow and strengthen in the next few years. „In my opinion, if we could look ten years into the future, what we are doing today will look like we were in diapers”, explains Lieut. Col. Ophir. „Not only from the technological aspect. What unites the squadron and what makes it fruitful are its people. There are exceptional and professional soldiers here. We believe that the element of strong human resources will help us withstand any challenge the squadron will face”.
Author: David Greenwald | Translated by: Ohad Zeltzer-Zubida and Ofri Aharon