In most modern air forces they are called “weapon systems operators”, but the Israeli air force prefers to stick with tradition and call them “navigators”.
Israeli combat navigators have long since dispensed with paper maps, and now they act as an inseparable part of the execution of aerial missions. They analyse situations, they makes decisions, they operate systems.
Navigation is no longer on their task list, but they are a critical part of every mission.
The importance of navigators on operational missions has increased with the development of technology. From operating two-way radios and radar systems to complex weapons, the list of responsibilities only grows.
The amount of information the cockpit receives requires an aircrew member who knows how to analyse it and respond in short order – and that is the navigator.
“No one takes the pilot course to become a navigator,” explains Maj Omri, who finished the pilot course as a navigator. “Everyone dreams of being a pilot, but this dream stems from a lack of understanding of combat flights. It isn’t until you fully understand this demanding world that you understand why becoming a navigator is so significant and rewarding,” he told the IAF’s website.
“It’s important that the navigators understand the basics of flying, and how it looks,” stresses Major Omri.
The IAF’s combat aircraft carry a variety of systems that do not resemble the ones they carried when leaving the assembly line in the USA. This maze of systems enables the IAF to perform missions that are not necessarily are accepted by other air forces as “normal”.
In such situations, the navigator has a crucial job to fulfil.