Israel’s Rolling Swordsmen
Report and photos by Yissachar Ruas
February 10, 2020
The Israeli Air Force’s busiest squadron is unsurprisingly its first Helicopter Squadron. This Squadron was founded in Tel Nof AFB more than 60 years ago it currently resides in Palmachim AFB just south of Tel Aviv.
The Squadron’s main missions are CSAR, CASEVAC, Airborne Assault and transport. During Israel’s conflicts with its neighboring Arab countries the Squadron has been a key element on the battlefield.
Rescue missions are generally conducted with a team of Unit 669 Operators. These operators are qualified as combat paramedics and go through specialized training in areas such as rescue from sea as well as combat scenarios regarding downed pilots behind enemy lines.
One of the changes made early on in the Blackhawk’s history in the Squadron, was the elimination of the navigator. What this meant essentially is that since 2002 both pilots in the cockpit are qualified to fly the aircraft, while navigators had the capability to fly the aircraft in certain scenarios, the brunt of the work fell on the pilot’s shoulders. This change was in line with the rest of the air forces worldwide and allowed both aircrew in the cockpit all the flying capabilities from both seats.
As part of the operational conclusions from the Second Lebanon War – the Squadron adopts a different IDF infantry brigade for periods of 6 months and alternates between them. This provides a common ground for both sides, the infantry are provided with a designated troop hauling squadron to work with, the pilots especially the new ones get to understand the needs and expectations of troops on the ground. Both sides use joint exercises to help build a common language so that in times of combat, which are quite frequent in the small country, both sides know each other’s mission goal.
As of 2020 the 124 th’s “Yanshuf” fleet will continue into the next decade with little changes. It would be safe to say that given the amount of hours the aircraft conducts, they would be due for a “life extension” during their periodic depot level maintenance sometime in the next decade. One thing is certain, when the call comes, they will be ready, Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere.