IAF seeking to increase cooperation with ground forces

Israel Air Force sends pilots to infantry courses, launches workshops for senior-field commanders; new combat paradigm could lead to closer air support.

IAF plane on runway 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
IAF plane on runway 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In an effort to increase cooperation with ground forces, the Israel Air Force has started sending pilots to infantry courses and launched a series of workshops for senior-field commanders, which include live flight simulations.
As an example, the incoming commander of the Hatzor Air Force Base near Ashdod recently completed the IDF Brigade Commanders Course and two pilots – one female – are currently participating in the Company Commanders Course.
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Other initiatives include “ground week” for pilots who are sent for a week to the Ze’elim Training Base in the Negev Desert, where they trek with infantry troops, ride in tanks and armored personnel carriers and assault “enemy” positions.
The increase in joint training is part of a new training regimen developed earlier this year by the IAF’s Helicopter Directorate and the Ground Forces Command, called “Partners in Training.”
As part of the new training regimen, all IDF officers participating in the Brigade Commanders Course receive a flight aboard an attack helicopter, or a fighter jet.
“The idea is to try and focus the ground forces so that they can prioritize what is most important for them to receive from the IAF for training and during operations,” a senior air force officer explained recently.
Earlier this month, the IAF hosted the entire top brass of one of the IDF’s key divisions for a workshop at one of its bases.
During the day, the officers watched videos showing them how pilots see the battlefield from their cockpits, and discuss various ways of improving coordination. The officers then go into the field and run a live exercise during which they try to direct fighter jets to a nearby target.
“By training together and developing a common language, we will know how to work better in the future,” the officer said.
The increase in cooperation and the creation of a common language is expected to eventually enable field commanders to receive closer air support than before.
During the Second Lebanon War in 2006, and Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip in 2009, the IDF operated with a safety buffer of hundreds of meters that had to be in place between troops and the target that they were asking the air force to bomb. The concern is that the field commanders and pilots will not understand one another, and accidentally lead to an attack on friendly forces.
The senior IAF officer said that with the increase in cooperation and understanding between the different branches, it was possible that the buffer would be reduced to enable closer air support.
“The buffer is not a wall that cannot be crossed,” the officer said. “When there are cases of real cooperation that we know for sure where all the forces are located, there are ways to provide extremely close support.”