When the IAF airbase in Lod was shut down in 2008, the Heavy Transport Division was relocated to Nevatim AFB. As a result, the airbase's munitions departments were joined into one – the IAF Munition Systems Department. “The department works with the Fighter Division and the Heavy Transport Division,” said Maj. A., Commander of Nevatim AFB's Munition Systems Department. “The department's missions are varied and complex – from transportation of the munitions and attachment of the munitions to the aircraft, through safety inspections and to maintenance work.”
The department is significant for the Fighter and Transport Divisions' operational activity, as well as the IAF in general. “I worked on five 'Ra'am' (F-15I) aircraft from the 69th ("Hammers") Squadron during the 2006 Second Lebanon War, and it was then that I realized the IAF's strength and significance, as well as the need for the Munitions & Maintenance Division,” elaborated Maj. A.
“The newly integrated 'Adir' (F-35I) changed our mode of operation completely. It can't be compared to previous platforms we've worked on. As a result, some of our ATOs (ammunition technical officers) are qualified for the Fighter Division, while others are qualified for the Transport Division,” the commander added.
Nevatim AFB's Munition Department has a position that doesn't exist in any other place in the IDF – aerial ATOs. “Heavy transport aircraft have designated munitions, and so there are service members in the department responsible for aerial activity. They board the aircraft, install the systems and test them while also participating in operational activity. During the sorties, the aerial ATOs are seated in the aircraft's cargo area.”
“We tried to find our 'Achilles heel' and saw that it had mainly been in the field of aerial ATOs. Many would drop out, and the service members' certification process was too long,” said Sgt. Maj. Mordechai Levi, Head of the Department's Transport Munitions Crew. “We shortened the training period by six months, which gave every service member an additional six months of operational activity – a significant length of time. Now, the service members arrive with the appropriate training.”
At the time of its establishment, the Munition Systems Department worked with F-16 and transport squadrons. When the "Netz" (F-16A/B) Division was shut down, and the IAF entered the fifth generation of aircraft, changes were made to the department's infrastructure in accordance with the new aircraft.
The department is in the midst of a development process. “We are constantly prepared so we can be as professional as possible. In the future, the department is expected to perform maintenance work and inspections on the 'Adir' aircraft,” said Maj. A. “Changes are also expected in the Transport Division. We are in the midst of the 'Karnaf' (Hercules C-130) aircraft's modification process, and the 103rd ("The Elephants") Squadron is expected to integrate a new 'Shimshon' (Super Hercules C-130J) aircraft. The department's service members have to be dedicated, professional and mission-oriented in order to meet our goals. Thanks to them, we are prepared for operational activity at any given moment.”
The article was originally published by Nuphar Blitt on the IAF website