The Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) 115th Squadron “Flying Dragon” is the aggressor squadron. Its purpose is to simulate the IAF’s enemies in training exercises.
They have Arab names and their ranks are colored red, but they fly with the IAF’s emblem on their aircraft. It operates the Barak F-16 C/D fighter jets.
The squadron’s main objective is to train alongside the force’s various squadrons while acting as the hostile force, practically “dressing up” as the enemy.
It has been in operation since the 1950s. In 1954-1958 operated “Moskito” and “Meteor”, in 1969-1994. – Skyhawks. In 2005, the squadron was revived for the third time, as a squadron of enemy imitation, the so-called “Red Squadron” of the Air Force (ha-Taesset ha-Aduma), an analogue of the Aggressor squadrons in the Air Force, Navy of the US.
“The squadron simulates the enemy and the way they operate”, said Lt. N’, an air traffic controller at the squadron.
In the early 2000s. The Israeli Air Force began to actively cooperate in the field of joint exercises with the Western Air Force. Serious problems of interaction were identified one of the conclusions was to turn imitation of the enemy into a profession, and not an additional burden for the conventional squadrons. In March 2004, the Commander of the Air Force approved the creation of a Training Center and a squadron based in Uvda, which will be responsible for this task.
The squadron is responsible for the imitation of various types of the enemy, so its structure contained both combat aircraft (F-16A / B “Net”) and assault helicopters AH-1 Cobra (“Zefa”), as well as the ground-based department.
The 115th Squadron’s mission is to improve the force’s capabilities and increase its wartime preparedness. In spite of the advanced simulators and modes of training available in the IAF, nothing can replace flight against actual aircraft.
“When establishing a training plan, I try to think about what would be challenging for me in the air”, said Capt. G’, an aircrew member at the squadron. “I think about things I’d never experienced during my service. Furthermore, we work with the IAF Training Department and plan our exercises according to operational scenarios”.
Every week, “blue” squadrons arrive at the base in Uvda to take part in a training with the “Red” squadron.
“I direct the ‘Red’ aircraft according to the ‘Blue’ force’s operations”, elaborated Lt. N’. “We adjust the training according to the visiting forces, and listen in on the radio communications during operation in order to ensure that it is at the appropriate level”.
“The squadron also holds ground exercises meant to prepare the visiting forces for ground threats. These exercises are performed using various instruments, including SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) batteries, warning flares and simulated terrorist cells. They also simulate Israeli forces, such as ejecting pilots or combatants in need of extraction from enemy territory.”
The aggressor squadron bases their actions depending on the platforms available to the enemy forces and doesn’t need to also copy their decision-making.
“Our simulation is based less on decision-making, and more on the platforms available to the hostile forces”, replied Lt. N’. “We can simulate the aircraft and munitions utilized by the enemy, and the ‘Blue’ force will then operate accordingly.”
“The focal point of each and every squadron and unit in the IAF is operational activity. We act as professional examiners, providing each squadron with information regarding its strengths and weaknesses”, added Lt. N’.
“Operating as an aggressor force is different to operational flight”, elaborated Capt. G’. “My goal is to make the training forces experience everything we planned during the training. At the same time, we have to maintain a high level of safety during sorties of this sort”.
The 115th Squadron and the opposing “Blue” squadron may fly against one another, but they work together. “We don’t actually operate ‘against’ the other squadron, seeing as our main goal is holding an optimal exercise”, concluded Capt. G’. “If the visiting squadron experienced a difficult exercise, then we both succeeded.”
10 years ago Haaretz reported on the 115th Squadron and a training the IAF conducted with them.
“As part of a course to mentally prepare pilots for combat, a squadron was selected as the Reds’ first victim. One after another, the training monitor told pilots over the radio that they had been “downed” by the enemy and were requested to return to base immediately.”
“That evening they called us to ask what they had done wrong, how we got them,” said Red Squadron commander Lt. Col. Eyal. “We told them not to call us anymore and to talk to their squadron commander. We only meet up in the air, we told them. You have to draw your own conclusions, just like in war.”
Eyal also explained the methodology behind the Aggressor squadron training back then:
“We take the squadron through a kind of a failure and crisis process over two days. Along with the base psychologist, we take pilots through difficult scenarios. Then we rebuild the squadron through success up in the air.”