The Israeli Air Force (IAF) on Sunday 13 December said good bye to the McDonnell Douglas A-4 Skyhawk after 48 years of service. A formation flight flew over all IAF bases on Sunday morning. The Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master takes over the A-4’s training duties.
The Skyhawks flew for the final time from Hatzerim airbase, witnessed by many active and former IAF-personnel. Virtually every pilot in the IAF flew the A-4 at one time or another, as the type was reponsible for pilot training over the last decades. It was applauded for its reliability during the farewell ceremony.
The first Skyhawk – called Ayit ( Eagle) in Hebrew – arrived in Israel on 29 December 1967 when the first four were unloaded from a ship in Haifa harbour. The type saw combat during various conflicts between Israel and its neighbouring states from 1967 until 1970. During the 1973 Yom Kippur war, Skyhawks flew 1,000 operational sorties.
In the nineties, 102 The Flying Tigers squadron, a long time Skyhawk user, was transformed into a flight school for future pilots and weapons operators. A large number of Skyhawks was sold to new users, among them various companies providing training assets to Western air forces.
The opening of ‘a new era in the training of fighter pilots’. That’s what the Israeli Air Force (IAF) had to say about the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master (named Lavi in Israel) as the fifth aircraft arrived at its new home base on Thursday 6 November.
The M-346 is operated in Israel by 102 ‘the Flying Tigers’ squadron at Hatzerim airbase. The first two aircraft arrived there last July. Since then, the IAF opened a new Flight Training Center, which follows up on the M-346 concept. “It’s not just a plane, it is part of a new system”, according the IAF officials. Israel has 30 Lavi aircraft on order, with the last one to arrive in 2016.
The Israel Air Force (IAF) inaugurated the new Flight Training Center for the M-346 Lavi trainer aircraft at Hatzerim Air Force Base, prime contractor Elbit Systems reported on Monday 29 September. Elbit developed the Ground Based Training System (GBTS) center together with Alenia Aermacchi amongst others, following a selection by TOR – Advanced Flight Training, which is responsible for operating the trainer aircraft. Alenia Aermacchi delivered the first ‘real’ M-346 advanced jet trainers to the IAF earlier this year.
With the introduction of the M-346 trainer (see our exclusive report on this advanced jet trainer), emphasis is given to groundbased training in the IAF flight school’s advanced training phases, for both fighter pilots and Weapon Systems Operators (WSO’s). The GBTS consists of two Full Mission Simulators (FMS) and two Operational Flight Simulators (OFS), all linked together, offering an experience which is almost identical to real flight. Both pilots and WSOs will undergo training ranging from basic familiarity with the aircraft to the highest level of combat flight competence. This training will be performed based upon a new innovative concept where a high percentage of the syllabus is being practiced at the GBTS, with the trainees visiting the center on a daily basis.
The GBTS enable flight school cadets, as well as graduate pilots and WSOs, to practice unusual and in-flight emergency procedures, and at a more advanced level, to simulate complex combat scenarios in single aircraft or as part of a formation. Elbit Systems will provide the GBTS center with logistics services for twenty years.
Virtual This comprehensive training solution was selected by the IAF, so the pilots and WSOs will be ready and qualified to progress directly to 4th and 5th generation fighter aircraft (F-16, F-15, F-35). Parallel to training in the Flight Training Center, the cadets, young pilots and WSOs will proceed to airborne training, using Elbit’s Embedded Virtual Avionics (EVATM) onboard training system, integrated by Alenia Aeromacchi into the M346, which transforms the aircraft into a virtual advanced fighter and allows the trainees to achieve an essential experience in operating advanced systems, such as virtual Radar, Optical sensors and Electronic Warfare systems, as well as virtual Air-to-Air and Air-to-Ground weapons.