The nature of the Israeli air force operations over Gaza during the recent operation Protective Edge required the use of special weapons systems to achieve more accurate hits in one of the world’s most densely populated areas.
The soldiers and officers of the Israeli air force Flight Test Squadron from Tel-Nof air base have worked around the clock during the operation to carry out these accurate, yet destructive attacks.
Normally the squadron follows long, pre-planned processes before approving a weapons system.
But during the operation they had to conduct tests in much shorter periods of time. “We took weeks-long processes and [shrank] them into one or two days,” a test engineer in the squadron’s guided munitions section told the Israeli air force website.
“During that allotted time, we had to understand the system’s shortcomings and how to do it. Afterwards, we conducted an aerial test to see how the system interacts with its matching aircraft.”
During the operation, the Flight Test squadron executed dozens of tests dealing with the Transport, Combat, UAS and Combat Helicopter squadrons. It tested new armaments and armaments already in use that had to be used in special conditions.
“At the end of the day, the armament has to hit a certain target: a tunnel, a terrorist or a building and we have to make sure it has the required accuracy,” says the engineer.
Due to the short time available during the 50 days of fighting, the testers did not conduct the normal extensive round of tests but instead some more focused ones.
“Usually, each armament goes through very in-depth testing,” explains the engineer. “We sometimes had to test munitions [for a] specific mission to be carried out immediately. We recommended [their] use for that mission and afterwards we would test [them] much more broadly.”
A swift test of a system poses serious dilemmas for the squadron. “It is very difficult to approve a system based on a brief test,” says the engineer. “That is why we must conduct essential tests with a large observant team that inspects every detail. At each test, two aircraft are in the air: one that drops the armament and another one to monitor the drop.”
In addition to the two aircraft, the squadron has cameras that document the moment of impact from various angles. This is how the accuracy is checked quickly and the testers convey their recommendations to the air force.
The air force used a huge number of weapons systems during operation Protective Edge operation. Some were introduced to service within days.