Israel Air Force helicopter squadrons complete huge training drill in Greece

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The Israel Air Force (IAF) completed a large-scale training exercise in Greece for its combat and transport helicopters last week.The exercise allowed dozens of air crews to gain valuable flight experience in mountainous terrain. The experience can later be applied in short- and long-range missions, a senior IAF officer said on Tuesday.

Capt. Gil, head of the IAF’s Overseas Exercise Branch, said the 11-day exercise was held from July 19 to 30. A previous exercise involving Israeli fighter jet squadrons and squadrons from the Hellenic Air Force was held in April.The Apache attack helicopters and the troop-carrying Ch-53 helicopters in the annual drill were joined by IAF Hercules and Super-Hercules transport planes, as well as the Tzofit Beechcraft King Air aerial intelligence gathering aircraft, which took part in a multiple overseas drill for the first time in the IAF’s history.

Scenarios included drilling the rescue of pilots who ejected from their aircraft and airlifting ground units, the IAF officer said.“The advantage we get is familiarizing ourselves with unknown terrain. Dozens of crews left this exercise with increased flight experience,” Capt. Gil, himself an F-16 pilot, said. “I know all of Israel, having flown over it for 10 years,” he added. There are enemy territories that pilots would only encounter for the first time when flying over them, he said, adding that “pilots practiced hiding in the mountains,” as part of the exercise.

Israel is a relatively flat country, while Greece is characterized by steep mountain ranges, crowned by the 2,918-m.tall Mount Olympus, around where much of the training occurred.“They gained flight experience, which they can later use for short or long-range missions,” said Capt. Gil. The mountains forces the helicopters to fly at high altitudes, away from the familiar low-altitudes the pilots are familiar with flying at in Israel. This causes aircraft to handle differently due to variations in air concentration levels, and temperatures, he explained.“There’s a lot more flight control planning in this kind of flying. It’s a different kind of complexity,” he stated.

The lessons taken from the drill “will be applied in the doctrine for future potential real missions,” Gil said, adding that “it was nice to see what the Greek pilots did that was the same as us, and where they acted differently.”IAF Hercules transport planes delivered equipment and personnel to the exercise in Greece, and took part in one-day exercises, before returning to Israel. The Israeli squadrons stayed at Greece’s Larrisa air base. The aircraft taking part in the exercise included the Apache attack helicopters, CH-53s, the UH-60 Black Hawk transport aircraft, and the Tzofit Beechcraft King Air surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. The Tzofit is a part of the air force’s 100th Squadron, based at Sde Dov Air Base near Tel Aviv.

Every IAF mission today includes aerial intelligence gathering aircraft, according to IAF Deployment Commander, Lt.-Col. Matan, who also commands the Hornet Squadron of Apache Longbow helicopters.

He said that, “in places where we might have to rescue a pilot, there may be very high mountains. During the deployment, the crews gained experience in flying around high mountains, which will make it easier for them if they have to fly over similar terrain in real time.”

Col. Y, commander of the Sde Dov air base, described the Tzofit’s participation as “historic,” adding that it was the first time the intelligence- gathering aircraft had worked with foreign aircraft in challenging, unknown terrain.

“This has significantly strengthened our operational capabilities,” the base commander added.
The IAF’s official website quoted the Larrisa Air Base Commander, Col. Dormitis Stephzanki, as saying that the Greek military values its close cooperation with Israel, which “contributes to the safeguarding of security of both countries.”Col. Stephzanki paid tribute to the “common language we created” and deep bonds forged, adding, “I believe that training at the base and under the terrain conditions that exist here strengthened the Israeli air force and its ability to fly in any place they will be required to fight.”The IAF’s official website said the drill was also the first time that the IAF deployed its Ch-53 Yasur transport aircraft on an overseas training exercise since a tragic accident in Romania during an exercise in 2010 that killed six air personnel and a Romanian serviceman.

In the coming months, Greek helicopters will arrive in Israel to train. IAF officials described the forthcoming drill as “an Israeli achievement.”

In the coming month, Greek fighter jets will also arrive as part of the multinational Blue Flag exercise, to be held over southern Israel.Every IAF mission today includes aerial intelligence gathering aircraft, according to IAF Deployment Commander, Lt.-Col. Matan, who also commands the Hornet Squadron of Apache Longbow helicopters.He said that, “in places where we might have to rescue a pilot, there may be very high mountains. During the deployment, the crews gained experience in flying around high mountains, which will make it easier for them if they have to fly over similar terrain in real time.”Col. Y, commander of the Sde Dov air base, described the Tzofit’s participation as “historic,” adding that it was the first time the intelligence- gathering aircraft had worked with foreign aircraft in challenging, unknown terrain.

“This has significantly strengthened our operational capabilities,” the base commander added.
The IAF’s official website quoted the Larrisa Air Base Commander, Col. Dormitis Stephzanki, as saying that the Greek military values its close cooperation with Israel, which “contributes to the safeguarding of security of both countries.”Col. Stephzanki paid tribute to the “common language we created” and deep bonds forged, adding, “I believe that training at the base and under the terrain conditions that exist here strengthened the Israeli air force and its ability to fly in any place they will be required to fight.”

The IAF’s official website said the drill was also the first time that the IAF deployed its Ch-53 Yasur transport aircraft on an overseas training exercise since a tragic accident in Romania during an exercise in 2010 that killed six air personnel and a Romanian serviceman.In the coming months, Greek helicopters will arrive in Israel to train. IAF officials described the forthcoming drill as “an Israeli achievement.”In the coming month, Greek fighter jets will also arrive as part of the multinational Blue Flag exercise, to be held over southern Israel.

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