The Israeli Air Force (IAF)’s second F-35I “Adir” squadron, the 116th Squadron “Lions of the South”, has officially became operational, the service announced.
The milestone came after six months of intensive preparations. From now on, the squadron’s personnel will take an active part in the IAF’s operational activity.
About six months ago, the 116th (“Lions of the South”) Squadron’s personnel stood proudly as four “Adir” (F-35I) fighter jets flew over them. The date was January 16, 2020, the opening of the second squadron to operate the most advanced aircraft in the IAF. Today (Thursday), the squadron marked another milestone and officially became operational. From now on, the “Lions of the South” are ready to take part in the IAF’s extensive operational activity.
Before being announced as operational, the squadron was required to undergo a long process, during which it gained experience in various fields – everything from defining training processes to planning the squadron’s tactics. For the last six months, the squadron’s personnel were met with the various scenarios that they were required to face as part of their preparation for the operational fitness inspection that took place this week – they will be prepared for real situations. “The operational fitness inspection provides an official seal of approval for the operational capability of the 116th Squadron to carry out all the missions of the ‘Adir’ division. The squadron’s tasks include its management during routine and periods of war, as well as maintaining functional continuity”, explained Maj. Edi, the squadron’s technical officer.
The 116th Squadron’s personnel were not exposed in advance to the scenarios they had to face as part of the test week, just as during combat they will not always be able to anticipate what will happen. “The inspection simulated the operational arena and the current regional tensions. Several scenarios led to a simulated war on all fronts, and aircrew members took off for missions in all of Israel’s regions”, shared Maj. G, leader of the operational fitness inspection and aircrew member in the squadron.
Some of the operational commands already reached the squadron last week, to give the aircrew members enough time to prepare for their aerial tasks. “Various personnel from different departments in the IAF’s HQ came to the squadron to examine us”, said Maj. G. “During the IAF’s continuous activity and combat, these people give operational commands to the different squadrons – the commands that describe the mission, the desired result and the policy of action set by the Commander of the IAF. We are required to take those operational commands and plan and execute them”.
The operational fitness inspection simulated 72 hours of intensive combat. “We worked 24 hours a day, nonstop”, described Maj. Edi. “Soldiers, officers and NCOs alike, worked for 16 hours a day and rested for the remaining eight. The squadron operated in shifts, to simulate its activity during warfare”.
Throughout the week, the squadron’s technical department was tested on many different scenarios that can affect its way of functioning. “We dealt with situations of missile attacks, and were tested on our ability to handle them properly”, said Maj. Edi. “When missiles hit the squadron, a fire broke out and there were injuries – they examined our decision-making process, management during combat, and ability to maintain functional continuity. That is just one example out of many. There wasn’t a single scenario that we were not prepared for”.
“The entire squadron participated in the operational fitness inspection, ranging from new soldiers who arrived this month to reserves who were specially recruited to take part”, said Maj. G. “From the moment the squadron was established to this day, we were accompanied by a feeling of desire to be part of a team. We all want to succeed and be the best we possibly can. Throughout the past half-year, the 116th Squadron’s personnel gave one hundred percent of their energy and abilities to ensure that it would be among the leading squadrons in the IAF. There is anticipation and a feeling of preparedness – we came prepared to the operational fitness and now get to prove ourselves”.
What will the 116th Squadron look like as of now? “The next significant milestone will be our first operational mission”, concluded Maj. G. “We are still a small squadron, and will continue to recruit new people and aircraft in the coming months”.