The UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) operators Course 23 came to an end last week, as dozens of new operators received their operator’s pin and officer insignia from the Commander of the IAF. “The world of unmanned aerial vehicles is being characterized by more missions, more capabilities, more responsibility and more expectations for the future. Your present will be fraught with complex missions and dilemmas on all fronts, while your success will strengthen our deterrence and our ability to win”, said Major General Amir Eshel, Commander of the IAF, to the graduates. “You have what it takes to succeed: professionalism and determination, teamwork, a clear and mature moral compass and above all, a willingness to take responsibility”.

In the coming years, the new operators will spend day and night carrying out IAF missions with the help of Heron-1, Heron-TP, Hermes 450, and Hermes 900 drones. “The graduates are joining the division at a special and significant time that is characterized by regional instability”, said Brigadier General Yoav Lior, commander of the Palmachim airbase. “Even though the area of unmanned aerial vehicles was established in the IDF and has been taking part in army missions for over four decades, it is a dynamic field that develops quickly and it allows for the adoption of new operational concepts need in the new battlefield”.

The UAV operator’s course lasts about half a year, which is spent at the UAV School in the Palmachim airbase. During the course, the cadets learn theoretical material about the UAVs they will be operating, gain experience in the simulator and through actually flying the UAVs themselves. Additionally, the cadets undergo commander training, at the end of which they graduate as commissioned officers. “There course entails great mental challenge and not everyone successfully completes the course”, said Major Yair, Training Division Commander at the school. “The complexity and the nature of the missions, as well as the strategic significance behind them, demand maturity and high abilities in all areas”.

From Air Patroller to UAV Operator
The vast majority of the UAV operators came to the course as IAF Pilot Course cadets whose participation in the IAF Pilot Course was suspended after over a year. But Captain Shaked, who graduated with honors, came to the course a different way: after he served as an air patroller in the “First Squadron” and in the Weapons Department at IAF headquarters, his request to join the UAV Operator’s Course was approved. “I am still very much connected to the ‘First’ squadron and as somone who knows it from up close, I can say that it has strategic capabilities that are irreplaceable”, said Captain Shaked, who is expected to serve as a “Hermes 450” operator. “Nonetheless, the UAV Division has its advantages too and the choice to move to the unmanned field was made based on my desire to expand the scope of my knowledge, to learn more and continue to advance”.