Lt.Col. Gilad: ‘We Are Always Ready For Some Big Mission – That Is Our State Of Preparedness’
‘Some Pilots Might Not Return But We Have Trained To Carry Out Mission Successfully & In Shortest PossibleTime ‘
‘In An Absurd Way Things Could Be Simpler For Pilots On Iranian Mission Than Back In Israel Which Will Come Under Rocket Fire’
While pundits can continue pontificating, the Israeli public got a first hand view of the Israeli pilots who, if given the order, will take off on the most hazardous mission in the state’s history. Channel 10 TV was given a rare opportunity recently to visit a base of the Israel Air Force, where preparations are continuing for a possible air strike on Iran’s nuclear installations. Military correspondent Alon Ben David was also permitted to interview some of the squadron commanders about such a mission. His report left no doubt the IAF is ready to attack Iran’s nuclear weapons sites, if Israel’s political leadership decides that time’s up and U.S. President Barack Obama has failed to halt Iran’s drive to produce nuclear weapons.
While the Western powers conduct negotiations with Iran on halting its nuclear program, the Israel Air Force continues its preparation for a possible attack on Iran’s nuclear installations.A commander of an F-15 sqaudron said: ‘ In the reality of modern warfare any idea or the idea of a perfect total Israeli operation without losses is very naive’.
The IAF is not turning off its aircraft engines in the wake of the renewed nuclear negotiations in Istanbul – its years of planning and training may now go operational, if the order is given. Zero hour is drawing near. If the negotiations break down or if Iran transfers its nuclear activity to the Fordow underground facility near Qom, the pilots may get the order to take off on the long flight to Tehran.
Lt.Col. Gilad, commander of an F-15 squadron said; ” I’ll tell you what’s great about the pilots’ world is that we have no such dilemmas, we are always prepared for some big mission, this is our state of readiness’.
The F-15s started arriving in Israel thirty-six years ago, the year Gilad was born, and since then have undergone an internal and external face-lift. And this veteran aircraft has emerged as the best plane for a long range attack mission. It has a very long range of activity with a combination of relatively good fuel economy and the power to carry significant quantities of fuel and weaponry’. When asked if he had trained for long flights the pilot replied: ‘I have had flights of several hours in its cockpick and tested it thoroughly’.
In scenarios published in recent weeks, it appears that tens of aircraft maybe more, including attack, interceptors, fuel tankers, electronic warfare planes and rescue helicopters would participate. These scenarios cannot foresee how the IAF pilots will perform, some of whom may not return from the mission. The last time Israeli pilots were involved in aerial combat was over thirty years ago when they raqcked up a 100-0 record against Syrian aircraft and anti- aircraft defenses. This would the first time, for the new generation of IAF pilots would be involved in such a confrontation. The IAF is also concerned about anti-aircraft systems that Russia has sold Iran and Syria. Those SA-22 and SA-17 anti- aircraft defenses pose a challenge to the IAF.
Lt.Col. Gilad said: ‘ Apparently the test will come the day the order is given. Whoever reads modern aerial warfare is aware that combattants, who were first rate in training, did not always deliver when under fire’. The IAF’s pilotless drones with electronic warfare capabilities would join the pilots on the operation. The ‘Eitan’ is equipped with the IAF’s most advanced platforms, would be part of the effort to cope with the new threats the IAF would face in the region. Lt.Col. Shai, commander of the Eitan squadron said: ‘If required the Eitan can fullfil all its missions on the day the order is given.’
Summing up, Lt.Col. Gilad said: ‘All the pilots are volunteers and we are not the ones who will make the decision. I find it hard to imagine the first day of total war here (at his base). We pilots will no longer enjoy the priviledge of the ‘warm and protected club’ when we return between sorties. In an absurd way, it may be that things for us will be simpler at the front than back home at our bases. They, like every other place in Israel, are likely to come under rocket fire and our families will have to be evacuated. However we have trained to successfully crry out this mission professionally and in the shortest possible time’.
Alon Ben David concluded his report by saying: ‘It was unlikely that Israel would strike before the next round in Baghdad in May, but this coming summer may be hotter and tenser than ever.