About six months ago, the 116th (“Lions of the South”) Squadron’s personnel stood proudly as four F-35I “Adir” fighter jets flew over them. The date was Jan. 16, 2020, the opening of the second squadron to operate the most advanced aircraft in the Israeli Air Force (IAF). As told by Shira Pansky in the article Second “Adir” Squadron Becomes Operational, Aug. 6, 2020 marked another milestone for the squadron as it officially became operational. The “Lions of the South” are now ready to take part in the IAF’s extensive operational activity.
Before being announced as operational, the squadron was required to undergo a long process, during which it gained experience in various fields – everything from defining training processes to planning the squadron’s tactics. For the last six months, the squadron’s personnel were met with the various scenarios that they were required to face as part of their preparation for the operational fitness inspection that took place this week – they will be prepared for real situations.
The 116th Squadron’s personnel were not exposed in advance to the scenarios they had to face as part of the test week, just as during combat they will not always be able to anticipate what will happen. “The inspection simulated the operational arena and the current regional tensions. Several scenarios led to a simulated war on all fronts, and aircrew members took off for missions in all of Israel’s regions”, told Maj. G, leader of the operational fitness inspection and aircrew member in the squadron.
The operational fitness inspection simulated 72 hours of intensive combat. “We worked 24 hours a day, nonstop”, explained Maj. Edi, 116th squadron’s technical officer. “Soldiers, officers and NCOs alike, worked for 16 hours a day and rested for the remaining eight. The squadron operated in shifts, to simulate its activity during warfare”.
The squadron’s technical department was tested on many different scenarios that can affect its way of functioning. “We dealt with situations of missile attacks, and were tested on our ability to handle them properly”, said Maj. Edi. “When missiles hit the squadron, a fire broke out and there were injuries – they examined our decision-making process, management during combat, and ability to maintain functional continuity. That is just one example out of many. There wasn’t a single scenario that we were not prepared for”.
What will the 116th Squadron look like as of now? “The next significant milestone will be our first operational mission”, concluded Maj. G. “We are still a small squadron, and will continue to recruit new people and aircraft in the coming months”.
Photo credit: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit photographer via Wikipedia
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