IAF and paratrooper Elite Recon inaugurate new base in unique maneuver

New Base part of budget cuts and efficiency Plans

By Yissachar Ruas

Tazpit News Agency

20It is a hot summer morning in the Negev Desert and we are on our way to visit one of the IDF’s smaller but most exceptional units – The Paratrooper Reconnaissance Unit.

The IDF’s Paratroopers originated from a unit founded during the Second World War when the Haganah, Israel’s largest underground paramilitary entity, tried to put forth an effort to save Europe’s Jews. 12 people were allocated for Paratroop training in the Ramat David base, under the guidance of the British Military. One of them was Hannah Szenes, who would later be parachuted by the British Army into Europe behind enemy lines, and would give her life bravely along with several others in a failed effort to try and save the Jews of Hungary.

That same mission tasked to Szenes and her fellow Haganah Paras, is now performed by this crack unit – The Paratrooper’s Elite Recon Unit. This unit has participated in some of the IDF’s most awe inspiring operations such as “Aviv Neurim”, the elimination of PLO’s top terrorists responsible for the Munich Olympic Village Massacre in the heart of Beirut, and the Entebbe Raid. Their job is to be on the front line and frequently, just like Szenes and her colleagues, behind enemy lines.

We came to witness these elite paratroopers inaugurate a new site for the IDF Jump School – Nevatim . Nevatim, an IAF Base, is expected to receive the F-35 JSF (Joint Strike Fighter). The base will also houses the largest runway in this part of the Middle East, which serves the IAF’s transport fleet that migrated from Ben Gurion Airport in 2008.

This move is part of the IDF’s transition to the south of Israel, a plan initiated during 2004 in the last round of exceedingly tough budget cuts which forced the IDF to scrap up every spare penny and even generate income from their “assets”, namely, bases that were located in the vicinity of the real estate boom. This move has also cut flight time by 90% and made the jump sessions more efficient.21

The Paratroopers we met were getting ready to jump for their first time. They are nervous, you can tell by the cracking of jokes and then the long silences. Pilots have a saying “you have to be crazy to jump out of a perfectly good aircraft”; chances are these very serious young men wouldn’t agree with the maxim, as they understand the purpose of this training and in whose footsteps they are following. They volunteered twice to make it to this unit, and like their comrades before them, are about to be the first to do something new, continuing a long tradition of groundbreaking actions.

We drove to the landing field right outside the base; an HQ is located there to monitor the jump, along with a marking team deployed so the pilot can see from what point the Paratroopers can start jumping.

The venerable C-130 Hercules takes off, making one loop around the base; all of a sudden the sky looks like its being seeded with mushrooms, the Paratroopers have jumped. They jump from a side door located on each side of the Hercules; you can see them fighting to gain control of their chutes and ultimately all succeed. The Hercules will do several “runs” and then land, pick up another company of soldiers and repeat the process. After 55 minutes all the Paratroopers have jumped. A process which once took 4 hours flight time per aircraft is now done in less than one, all this without considering the additional ferry time which is now saved.

From the IDF’s perspective, with expanding defense cuts being passed through the Knesset, it remains to be seen where the Army can find more “pockets” from which they can free up costs and funds.

From the Paratroopers perspective the jump was concluded successfully, and the new field serves its purpose well. The Paratroopers can mark off another step in their training, which will bring them closer to being fully combat-ready, and a bit closer historically to legends like Hannah Szenes, Rafael Eitan and Israel’s current Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.

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