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Ramon AFB Combat Preparation Release date 06.03.2019
Terrorist incursions, extraction from enemy territory and aircraft landings without radio communications – these are some of the scenarios recently drilled in Ramon AFB and the Southern ATC (Air Traffic Control) Unit as part of a Fitness & Preparedness Inspection held last week. Are the IAF's airbases prepared for war?
Michal Ben-Ari

Terrorist incursions, extraction from enemy territory and aircraft landings without radio communications – these are some of the scenarios recently drilled in Ramon AFB and the Southern ATC (Air Traffic Control) Unit as part of a Fitness & Preparedness Inspection held last week. The three-day-long inspection was meant to examine the IAF airbases' operational readiness.

Fitness & Preparedness Inspections are held in every IAF airbase once every several years. "These inspections are the second-largest test undergone by the force's operational units. The largest is actual wartime", said Lt. Col. A', Commander of the Southern ATC Unit. "The inspection examines the units' activity during routine and the shift to emergency, as well as their operation under such conditions".


Photography: Mike Yudin

The inspection examined Ramon AFB's operational squadrons and the ATC Unit's control departments, as well as their logistical and operational processes. There were active scenarios both in the air on the ground, including red alerts, fire drills, blocked runways and simulated casualties.

From Zero to 100
As head of the Force Exercise Department, Maj. R' is responsible for handling the aerial overview from the directorate located in the IAF's Operational HQ. "We are responsible for coordinating flight areas, allocation of necessary means and simulating the enemy", he said.

The inspection leaders located in the Operational HQ established the inspection according to the separate squadrons and control stations' capabilities with the hopes of challenging each one separately. "We made sure that the aircrew members worked hard: we replaced their designated targets while they were in the air and initiated several encounters with simulated enemy forces", added Maj. R'.


Archive Photo

At the same time, the flight controllers handled a scenario where the aircraft suddenly lost radio communications. "The ATC has the means required to identify this problem", explained Capt. D', the ATC Unit's inspection leader. "We examined the way the controllers operated the event, from the moment the malfunction was detected and to the moment when it was reported in at the base where the aircraft was about to land".

Exercised Operationality
Ramon's squadrons and the Southern ATC Unit participate in operational scenarios on a daily basis, which means that, in a way, they are always under examination. "There is a similarity between the inspection and the situations on the news in Israel over the past few weeks, whether they be sudden events in the Gaza Strip or escalation in the northern border", said Lt. Col. A'. "Therefore, the past six months have prepared us for the switch from routine to emergency without even having to simulate it".


Photography: Mike Yudin

One of the simulated scenarios involved a special force being caught in enemy territory. The Southern ATC Unit received their instructions from the control stations and scrambled fighter jets and attack helicopters to the area in order to rescue the force.

However, the units' routine operational activity does not stop for a minute, and they have to understand how to maintain their routine throughout the inspection. "We have to coordinate between our regular activity and the inspection", emphasized Lt. Col. A'. "The ATC Unit never stops working, neither during training nor during operational activity. Our primary challenge is maintaining our operational core just like we would during any regular day, all while participating in three intensive days of 'wartime'".

The Day After
"The bases and units prepare themselves for the inspection and the potential scenarios within – this is its greatest virtue", added Maj. R'. "If the inspection were cancelled at the last moment, the bases would already be improved because they had prepared ahead".


The ATC Unit | Archive Photo

"The things we do during routine are also things we encounter during the inspection. We arrived at the inspection with the feeling that we were incredibly prepared and this proved to be true", said Lt. Col. A', Commander of the 113th ("Hornet") Squadron which operates "Saraf" (Apache Longbow) helicopters from Ramon AFB.

Ramon AFB and the Southern ATC Unit were both graded well upon the inspection's conclusion. "Some of the lessons we learn throughout will serve us in our routine operation", concluded Lt. Col. A'. "The events we drilled proved that we are capable of handling any threat".