Operating under fire

This is a realistic scenario – another military confrontation between Israel and one of its neighbouring countries. Israeli air force (IAF) bases are prime targets for enemy countries – but also for terror organisations backed by enemy countries.

The threat is not posed by enemy aircraft carrying bombs, but by ground-launched rockets and missiles – and the IAF is getting ready to operate under such attacks.

A few days ago, one of the IAF’s main air bases became the scene of an exercise aimed at preparing the force for this scenario

In seconds, a routine day at  Nevatim air base in southern Israel became a warzone. A “code red” alarm was heard throughout the base, and an explosion bloomed – representing a missile falling next to a building housing one of the base’s squadrons. Seconds later, another ‘missile’ caused a fire. To complicate this, dozens of wounded soldiers and servicemen suffering from anxiety needed to be evacuated for medical treatment.

Soldiers at Nevatim air base had to deal with this situation – among more than 80 other such scenarios – as part of a large functional-continuity exercise. The soldiers had to deal with different emergency situations, from “code red” alarms that blared dozens of times to the threat of attacks on planes at the base.

“The goal of the exercise is to thoroughly prepare the various units of the air base. We wanted to train everyone for difficult combat situations, and improve the synchronisation of the whole airbase,” Maj Dror, deputy commander of the aviation squadron at Nevatim, told the IAF website. “This is an exercise designed to hone commanding skills under conditions of uncertainty, and we put heavy emphasis on the element of surprise.”

Uncertainty and surprise was a factor from the very beginning of the exercise – as the soldiers serving at Nevatim gathered at the centre of the airbase, for a briefing prior to the expected exercise, a siren blared, indicating that rockets or missiles had been detected on a trajectory to hit the base.

In a future war the IAF’s air bases will be defended by the Iron Dome and the longer range David’s Sling rocket interceptors. But as a 100% intercept rate is not guaranteed, the IAF is taking steps to be ready for continued operation under fire.

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