August 24, 2009 (by Yaakov Katz) - In what could be considered the Israeli version of Top Gun, Israeli Air Force fighter jet squadrons participated in a one-day competition to determine which one was superior.
IDFAF F-16D block 40 #638 from 105 sqn taking off from Hatzor AB. [Photo by Ofer Zidon]
In this year's competition, called "Skewer," Squadron 105 from the Hatzor Air Force base took first place. It will be awarded the trophy in a ceremony attended by the entire IAF top brass at the beginning of 2010.
The competition takes place over the Negev desert and tests mainly the formations of four fighter jets from each squadron. The objective, Maj. Chen, head of the competition, said this week, was for the pilots to accurately locate and strike targets scattered on the ground.
"We try to make the competition as real as possible," Chen, an F-15 fighter pilot, said. "The idea is to hit the targets while overcoming different threats in the air - such as enemy aircraft - and from the ground, such as ground-to-air missiles."
The scenario chosen, he said, is like any of the scenarios that the IAF might encounter in the event of a conflict with one of Israel
's enemies in Gaza, Lebanon or Syria.
The squadrons receive points for direct hits against the targets - mostly old cars - and lose points if a plane is shot down or if they miss the target even by just several meters. Additional planes are deployed at a higher altitude to film all of the missile strikes so that they can later be analyzed by the IAF's Combat Aircraft Department.
"Squadrons take this very seriously and bring their best pilots, even from the reserves," Chen explained.
Squadron 105, which won this year's competition, is also called the "Scorpion Squadron" for its emblem of a scorpion. The pilots fly two-seater F-16C fighter jets and are assigned strategic operations. This squadron participated widely in the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip.