The “pretenders” that help IAF pilots survive

As war has changed, so has military training. The Israeli air force (IAF) is naturally training for all-out war, but its everyday missions are against targets hiding in densely populated areas, in hostile neighbouring countries.

The targets do not have the  sophisticated weapons to confront fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters equipped with the most advanced weapon systems, but a even a single missile can hit in certain circumstances.

To avoid such an event, IAF pilots train for scenarios they are likely to confront in the context of what is referred to as “low-intensity warfare”.

This training is conducted by using enemy-simulating officers on the ground from the “Flying Dragon” squadron. Their job is to “dress up” like the enemy, and train the pilots.

While the aircrews train for flights in enemy territory, enemy-simulating officers emerge from the darkness and threaten the planes, using fireworks, imitation missiles and other pyrotechnics. The simulated threat shows up on aircraft systems as if it is a real threat during a military operation in enemy territory.

According to the IAF website the goal of an enemy-simulating officer is to “shoot down” the planes or helicopters, while the pilots must respond to the situation with a variety of methods.

After the training, the pilots and enemy-simulating officers are debriefed together and examine whether it was possible to respond more effectively to the enemy. The enemy-simulating officers on the ground do not only simulate the enemy – during one of their missions they also simulate a pilot who has abandoned his plane and needs to be rescued.

The simulation of ground threats is based on intelligence about the weapon systems that can threaten the IAF in neighbouring countries or over the Gaza strip.

This intelligence, according to sources, allows “very effective” threat simulation.

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