Israeli airspace is controlled by the Israeli air force (IAF).
Two major control centres are operated by the service. There are civilian controllers in those centres, but the final word is that of the men in uniform.
This unique situation stems from the special circumstances of a limited airspace threatened from all sides, and calls for co-operation and understanding between the men and women in uniform and the civil pilots.
The soldiers of the IAF’s Control Unit have a complex job. In addition to controlling the IAF’s flights, they control the activity of civilian planes in Israel, and ensure the flights do not interfere with IAF activities or with the security of the citizenry.
This, of course, is in addition to the mission of detecting any tiny suspicious blip on their radar screens that might indicate an incoming threat.
Last week, soldiers from the control unit met with civilian pilots in the southern control centre, located at an IAF facility in Mitzpe Ramon, southern Israel, to strengthen professional co-operation.
“The vast majority of Israel’s airspace is allocated to the military, and any civilian who wants to fly in Israeli airspace need to be in contact with us,” explains Capt Yaniv, commander of the transport division at the control unit. “The interface between us is very big, and so they came here to enhance co-operation,” he told the IAF website.
Among civilian guests was the director of aviation infrastructure at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), who explained to the controllers, from personal experience, how civil aviation laws are written. “The world of civil aviation has its own system of laws and we need to be familiar with them too,” says Capt Yaniv.
Every aerial movement in Israeli airspace is continuously and closely monitored by the two control centres, which have the capability to observe aerial traffic from long ranges.
With the limited airspace and the level of activity the IAF keeps almost all year long, this mutual understanding is crucial – especially in those moments when there are indications that something unusual is happening.
Understanding the procedures and common language can avoid complicated situations when every second counts.