The Israeli Air Force has released new details of its training programs to train fighter pilots.
In the 420th (“Fighter Simulator”) Squadron at Hatzor AFB, at the F-16 Instruction Center, pilots drill various emergency scenarios that can occur during any flight.
The center’s goal is to train aircrew members to fly on the platform. Immediately after graduating from the Flight Course and arriving at their operational squadrons, F-16 aircrew members first meet the fighter jet and go through three weeks of training at the Instruction Center. The training includes ground lessons, teamwork lessons, as well as lessons about the aircraft’s weapons system. Between lessons, aircrew members execute sorties on the simulator.
“After three weeks in the center, the new aircrew members know how to fly the aircraft and operate it at a basic level, including emergencies”, explained Maj. A. Commander of the Center. “An emergency can occur at the very first flight, and aircrew members must know how to function properly”.
Additionally, the Instruction Center is where all IAF F-16 pilots execute their operational fitness flights. “Twice a year, each aircrew member needs to pass both a theoretical and practical test in the simulator. One regarding emergencies and the other regarding flying in winter conditions. In the winter test, we check the aircrew members know how to fly using the winter flight devices, execute the preflight checklist, and fly in cloudiness”, shared Maj. A. “In the emergency test, the aircrew member’s face various malfunctions which they need to operate. Additionally, the pilots arrive at the center for two more days a year to practice emergency flight situations in the simulator”.
“Most of the malfunctions we face in the simulator are ones we can’t practice in the air. For example engine failure, forced landing, fuel malfunctions, or losing control of the aircraft”, described Maj. A. “That’s how we are able to practice these situations on the ground without risking our lives. It’s important for an aircrew member to know what to do if one of these scenarios occurs mid-air”.
In the simulator center, there is an IAF simulator instructor, which accompanies the trainees throughout all stages of simulator training – from briefing to the sortie itself, and eventually debriefing. “The IAF defines what every aircrew member needs to practice throughout the year, and that’s how we know what to focus on during sorties”, explained Sgt. Bar, a Simulator Instructor in the center.
“During training, I simulate every outside factor who’s in contact with the team – the ATC (Air Traffic Controller), the pilot second in the formation, or even the Squadron Commander. I operate the emergencies from the control station, and the aircrew members need to face them”, detailed Sgt. Bar. “The instructors adjust the training to the teams. If the team struggles or succeeds, we’ll change the training scenario accordingly. However, the goal is to have all teams practice similar scenarios”.
“We try to make the simulator as close to reality as possible, both in terms of the simulative scenarios provided by the simulator instructor, and in making the aircraft’s cockpit and environment match the real world. That way, if I handle a malfunction a certain way, the results will be identical to those in reality”, mentioned Maj. A. Sgt. Bar adds: “The simulator simulates real events. If the team won’t land properly, they’ll crash. If the teams run out of fuel, they’ll have to ditch the aircraft”.
To provide the best possible training for teams, the center incorporates scenarios based on true events. “We chose a number of key events from far and recent history and incorporated them into the simulations”, presented Maj. A. Sgt. Bar added: “We practice certain incidents that happened recently in an attempt to learn from them”.
The training center is a focal point of knowledge for everything regarding the F-16 division. “If there are faults, we can advise how to act, even in real-time”, stated Maj. A. “Each of our instructors specializes in a different subject, and that knowledge allows them to advise aircrew members how to operate”.
Additionally, when a new system is introduced to the IAF, we integrate it along with its literature, apply it to the simulator, and practice all its possible faults and scenarios – and thus learn how to operate it”, Maj. A. continued. “If we teach trainees to operate incorrectly – it endangers the aircrews. For that reason, we must be professional and pay attention to every detail”.