'We may have to rescue a pilot at any moment'

Air Force's elite rescue 669 Unit, intelligence officials, helicopter squadron pilots meet to prepare plans for ejection scenarios.

IAF fighter jet crew in the rain 370 (photo credit: IAF Spokesman's Office)
IAF fighter jet crew in the rain 370
(photo credit: IAF Spokesman's Office)
Members of the air force’s elite Airborne Rescue And Evacuation Unit 669 met with intelligence officials and helicopter squadron pilots in recent days to ensure they were ready to work together to rescue pilots who ejected from their aircraft.
Although there have been no cases of downed pilots in hostile territory in many years, the IAF says it remains crucial to prepare for such a scenario.
“This is a mission that could occur at any given moment. Even tomorrow morning,” said Maj. Baruch, head of the Helicopter Department, which is a part of the Air Division at the IAF’s General Headquarters.
“We must get hold of critical information in a short period of time, and launch the rescue as quickly as possible.”
Unit 669 members are highly trained in a range of skills, to be ready to go far behind enemy lines, where they must extract air crews in trouble. They travel in Sa’artype transport helicopters.
Those who took part in the recent meeting say that information-sharing, and drawing up joint working plans dominated talks among the various units, adding that this sort of cooperation was vital for future rescue missions.
“For air crews, the decision to eject from a plane is the last answer to a problem that develops in the air,” Maj.
Baruch said. “It only happens when the plane is irreversibly damaged, and there’s no other choice. As soon as a ‘plane ditched’ message arrives, a chain of actions begins in the air force, aimed at one goal: Saving the pilot’s life.”
The pilot is viewed as a “force in distress,” Baruch said.
According to foreign press reports, the IAF bombed a weapons convoy in Syria on January 30.