Training is the key to the IAFs secret weapon: the quality of its people. Manpower is Israel's most valuable resource. By investing in its young men and women, the IAF maintains a decisive edge over potential enemies. "Hard in training - easy in battle" is an IAF motto. Flight training is rigorous and simulates the combat arena as closely as possible. The training schedule is planned to make optimum use of Israel's limited airspace and bombing ranges. Emphasis is placed on utilizing simulators and on squeezing every ounce of training from each precious flight hour. A single F-15 flight hour, for example, costs $15,000.
Formal Training Elements
Formal training is based on three primary elements: IAF training schools, specialized training at military and civilian institutions, and unit-level training.
The IAF training schools include:
- The Flight School at Hatzerim Air Force Base for air crews.
- The Technical School in Haifa for maintenance personnel.
- The Air Defense School in Herzlia for anti-aircraft troops.
- The Aviation Professional School at Ovda Air Force Base for air traffic controllers, intelligence, communications and administrative personnel.
Specialized training at military and civilian institutions includes an IAF college-level facility at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; courses at the IAF Command & Staff School and the IDF Defense College; and courses at universities, with industry, and abroad.
Unit-level training is a continuous process, whereby the individual sharpens his basic skills with formal and informal on-the-job training. Commanders at every level are responsible for the ongoing training program. This ensures the high standard of professionalism required to operate a sophisticated, high-tech air force.
The IAF Technical School
The Technical School has been the source for maintenance personnel since the first days of the IAF. Through the years, the overall mission of the School has broadened considerably. Today its scope goes beyond the initial qualification of ground crews. The Technical School has become a major academic institution, providing recognized certification in several technical fields. It also provides intensive refresher training for field personnel and conducts basic and advanced officers training courses. There is a special course for training maintenance instructors as well.
Two technical high schools operate under the aegis of the Technical School: one in Beer Sheva and one at the School's main base at Haifa. Living in a paramilitary dormitory environment, thousands of cadets study for their general and vocational high school diplomas. The School also provides IAF soldiers with the opportunity to complete their matriculation. In addition to its training role, the Technical School performs many important operational functions. Yet despite its daily operational commitments, the School's focus is clearly on the future.
Today's cadets must be prepared to maintain tomorrow's technology. Utilizing advanced training methods and equipment, the School constantly improves the quality of its graduates. These are the men and women who give IAF pilots the edge in today's high-tech battle arena.
The IAF Flight Academy
The IAF Flight School first opened its doors in 1950 at Sirkin Field near Petach Tikva. From Sirkin the School moved to Tel-Nof Air Force Base and from there to its current location at Hatzerim Air Force Base. In 2002, following the academic status given to the IAF's flight course, the Flight School's name was changed into the IAF Flight Academy.
The primary mission of the Flight Academy is to qualify aircrews. Flying, however, is only part of the story. A major emphasis is placed on training young men to be officers and leaders. The ultimate graduate is first a fighter - then a pilot.
Candidates undergo a rigorous screening process before they begin their military service. Local induction centers earmark outstanding teenagers for pilot training. The most qualified candidates are invited to the final phase of aircrew testing: a week-long march. This grueling ordeal tests their mettle both as individuals and as members of a group. Many are washed out. "Survivors" begin their training, first flying the Piper Supercub and then advancing to the Tzukit, a locally upgraded version of the Fouga-Magister jet trainer. The three-year flight course is made up of five stages: four 6 month long stages, and an academic year. .
Cadets are classified for training as fixed-wing or helicopter pilots, navigators or flight engineers. Later, they are separated into fighter and transport trends. One common element for all trainees is the constant pressure to excel. Only 10% of the original candidates succeed in earning their wings. Two Hebrew words - Hatovim Letayis - sum up the Academy's philosophy: only the best become IAF pilots.
Missile War Simulation
IAF pilots completed a simulation based around a missile war in November 2015. Actual air operations were conducted as well as simulated battles, during a simulation in which Iran and others fired thousands of rockets and missiles towards Israel. IDF Missile batteries were set up to shoot missiles at Israeli aircraft, in order to simulate warfare with Hezbollah and other groups. A senior IAF officer stated following the exercises, that “we have set up an exercise that makes believe our enemy is in our territory, and we practiced fighting it.” Israeli pilots also practiced intercepting enemy aircraft incoming from Lebanon and/or Syria.