Israeli AF Graduation
A unique and rarely offered possibility to see the aircraft of the Israeli Defence Forces / Air Force (IDF/AF) in action is the chance to attend the annual graduation ceremony of future IDF/AF pilots at the end of June. Scheduled shortly before sunset this event focuses of course on the achievements of the young graduates to gain their wings and the celebration by their families and friends. But the airpower demonstration remains also an important part of this venue, proudly showing the IDF/AFs strength in the sky.
Where? Hatzerim AFB, Israel
Whereas the speeches were dragging on for most of the time of the ceremony, the flying did happen really fast, with all the acts following in quick succession and precise timing. One highlight of the flying happened already at the very beginning of the program with the formation of a Stearman, T-6 Harvard and the famous black Spitfire, a sight not seen in Hatzerim for many years. The Spitfire formed later also up with an F-16I Sufa of the "Knights of the orange tail" Squadron representing Israeli air power from the past until the present.
F-16I Sufa take-off & Spitfire "Heritage Flight"
Warbirds: Stearman, Texan & Spitfire Solo Display
Silently the Hermes 450 and the Heron TP UAVs sneaked up low level next on and turned away to vacate the airspace for the formation fly-bys including amongst others the Grob G 120A Snunit trainer aircraft, the Eitam and Nachshon modifications of the Gulfstream G-550 and a B-707 Re'em leading three F-15 Baz.
Furthermore a C-130 Karnaf demonstrated the refuelling of a CH-53 Yasur 2000 that split up for a solo and SAR demonstration. This also included a demonstration of the C-130's capabilities, ending with the ever impressive JATO short take-off.
Formation Fly-Bys: S-70 Flag Parade, A-4 Ahit, B200 Tsofit
UAVs: Heron Shoval & Hermes 450 - AS565 Atalef & G-120 Snunit - B707 Re'em Tanker & 3x F-15C Baz - SIGINT formation: G550 CAEW Eitam & GV SEMA Shavit
C-130 Karnaf JATO take-off - Cargo Demo
C-130 refuelling CH-53 Yasur 2000 - CH-53 Yasur 2000 CSAR exercise
All this flying culminated later in the live firing demonstrations: first with a pair of AH-64A Peten approaching the crowd from behind, firing their machine guns on some targets in the deserts that burst into flames and thick black smoke. This was followed by a pair of S-70 Yanshuf and two AH-1 Tzefa, the latter aiming on two other targets in the far distance with their unguided missiles and successfully destroyed both of them. All the noisiness did not end before a 4-ship of F-16 Barak 'attacked' the airfield, pulled up while continuously releasing flares well over the apex of this manoeuvre and aimed an imaginary target in-between Hatzerim's two runways. This point of desert ground turned into dust only seconds later when hit by 16 practice bombs.
AH-1 Tsefa live missile fire & UH-60 Yanshuf combat team
AH-64A Pethen canon firing
4x F-16A Netz practice bomb drop
Hereafter the F-15I Ra'am did lighten the sky during its solo display routine with the nearly continuous use of the afterburner and the merely never ending use of flares. The presentation finally finished precisely with the splitting up of the Tzukit display team above the Israeli flag at the last tone of the national anthem.
F-15I Ra'am Solo Display
Tzukit Aerobatic Team
To conclude this report I would still like to present some photos of the static display:
Verdict: Though the event is aimed at the graduation of the young IDF/AF pilots and the access thus very restricted, your author is very grateful to the IDF spokesman for this rare possibility to capture these aircraft in the sky, and it was also a unique experience to feel the pride and standing of this air arm when looking at the spectator's reactions during the demonstrations.
!!! The graduation ceremony is no real airshow and without public access. It is only accessible via prior arrangements !!!Thank you for rating this article.