Six countries and the IAF participated in Sky Angels 2018, one of the biggest SAR exercises in the world, held for the first time in Israel.

By: United with Israel Staff

“Sky Angels” 2018, the first multinational SAR (search-and-rescue) exercise held in Israel for the past two weeks and led by the Israel Air Force’s (IAF) elite SAR Unit 669, has concluded successfully, the IAF announced Tuesday.

Special Forces from six countries – the US, Italy, Croatia, the Netherlands, Canada and the Czech Republic – trained in a variety of scenarios, focusing on cooperation in the mission of saving lives.

“The goal of the exercise is to improve the unit’s operational knowledge while learning from the experience of other sources,” said Lt. Col. A., commander of Unit 669. “It’s important for us to learn from SAR units from around the world in order to improve our techniques and modes of training.”

The exercise included a week of basic training followed by a week of mission-oriented drills, including combat extraction during warfare, advanced operational medicine, pilot extraction and mass-casualty incidents.

Unit 669 last month faced a real-time mass casualty incident when it participated in the extraction of casualties from a bus swept away by floods in Jordan.

Unit 669 has a wide range of operational knowledge, which makes it one of the most experienced and advanced combat extraction units in the world.

Critical Collaboration

Lt. Col. A’ noted that Sky Angels’ significance lay with the exercise’s broad international participation.

“It brings me great pride to see Israel host so many countries. Not many countries have held an extraction exercise of this sort and the fact that we have indicates the strength of the IAF and SAR Unit 669 in particular,” the IAF commander said.

He also underscored the importance of interpersonal relationships between the various units as a critical factor for future operation.

“It was important for me that the unit would learn from international militaries – in exercises, doctrines and instruction. Mutual discourse is significant in all of them”, he said. “One of the exercise’s main goals was establishing a good interpersonal infrastructure so that we would be able to consult with our international counterparts when operational dilemmas arise.”

Maj. Ivan Delagić, a helicopter pilot from the Croatian Air Force and Head of the Readiness & Evaluation Department, arrived at the exercise as a spectator.

“I came to get to know the modes of operation of the IAF, which is similar to our air force. It was interesting seeing how professional and calm the Israeli combatants were in spite of their young age.”

A Crucial Contribution

“The role of a SAR operator is based on techniques which continue to renew themselves – you always want to become quicker and better. As a result, learning just one thing from a unit as experienced as SAR Unit 669 makes the whole trip worth it”, shared Lt. Col. Anthony Alexander, a SAR officer from the US Air Force’s 943d Rescue Group.

IAF Lt. Col. A said that participation in the exercise alone constitutes a crucial contribution. “Just looking at a foreign SAR operator work makes me contemplate whether my mode of operation is the correct one. SAR Unit 669 has no parallel unit in Israel. Therefore, the only ones we can learn from are operators from international SAR units.”

(With files from the Israel Air Force)

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