Air-ground combat – joining forces

Combat in many cases is combined. Much of the time it is air forces and ground forces. In some situations, the navy is also part of the operation.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has decided to take this fact a step further – and this time in the field.

Recently, for a week, young helicopter pilots, UAS operators, and aerial support staff from different Israeli air force bases joined ground forces to get the real feeling of joint air-ground operations.

The “Rattlesnake” battalion of the IDF’s paratroopers – which these days is deployed along the northern border – were joined by new soldiers, IAF soldiers, who arrived for a training session in the Golan Heights to familiarise themselves with the world of the ground forces, their potential “partners” in any future war.

For a week, young helicopter pilots from the Desert Bird squadron, cadets from the mechanics course, UAS operators and even an aerial crew member came to switch with the ground forces.

“Our main goal this week is to provide the cadets with a more scholarly perspective on how the battlefield looks from the angle of the ground forces,” said the head of the ground forces section in the co-operation unit, a former ground force combat soldier.

“When they learn these things in an air-conditioned room, it’s hard to really understand. When we take them to the battlefield itself and when we put them in a situation similar to that of the ground forces, the experience becomes a lot more tangible.

“Field week, which is held once every six months, is part of a significant process on the part of the co-operation unit to strengthen relations with the ground forces. For the first time, UAS operators and aerial crew members also took part in field week, so that they, too, could be exposed to the essence of the work of the combat soldiers in the field, and to give them a glimpse of the battlefield.”

The air-ground co-operation goes beyond that field day. According to the IAF, Apache attack helicopter pilots are training with infantry units in urban warfare. In this type of fighting there is a need for a very high co-ordination level, mainly to avoid ‘friendly fire’ incidents.

When an attack helicopter gets a target from an infantry unit and launches a missile in a very densely populated area, this co-ordination can be the thin line between life and death.

So across the board, the IAF and the different infantry units of the IDF are required to achieve a very high level of co-ordination.

To complicate things, some of the infantry units operate small UAS for “over-the-hill” intelligence. This again makes the scenario more “precision sensitive”. Only a lot of joint training can achieve the necessary level of performance.

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