> our title:

Israel Graduates Biggest-Ever Class of UAV Operators

> original title:

New RPAV Operators

(Source: The Israeli Air Force; issued June 21, 2018)

Their big moment has arrived. Yesterday (Wednesday), RPAV (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicle) Operator Course 31 came to an end. The Commander of the IAF granted the 29 graduating cadets their insignia. This is the largest class to ever finish the IAF’s course.

"The field of RPAVs is growing at a rapid pace. We integrate more and more aircraft with every passing year, which then perform more and more missions. In addition, the number of operators continues to grow", said Brig. Gen. Nimrod Shifroni, Commander of Palmahim AFB. "We are proud of our advanced systems, made in Israel. The RPAV Division continues to perform a growing number of missions in the IAF, but we mustn't be blinded by our technology. We have to maintain the IAF's main advantage – its service members. Dear graduates, today you join the ranks of the RPAV Division. The quality of your performance depends on you".

The RPAV Division’s missions include aerial photography and surveillance among others. In recent years, the RPAV Division has developed significantly and there are RPAVs in the air at almost any given moment.

A Variety of Operators

"Today we celebrate the new generation of RPAV operators who have joined us. These are worthy, talented service members, prepared to perform any mission they may face", said Lt. Col. L', Commander of the RPAV Academy. "These operators' training has brought them to the edge of their abilities, both professionally and mentally. They are now prepared for any challenge".

Who are the IAF’s new RPAV operators? 48% of the graduates live in the city while 42% live outside the city. The youngest graduating operator is 19 years old while the oldest celebrated his 24th birthday this year. 42% of the graduates play musical instruments, 61% say they play sports and more than half have a relative serving in the IAF.

Just the Beginning

The course’s graduates underwent a four-stage six-month training process in which the cadets learned about the aircraft, flight elements, and finished with the concluding scenario stage. Besides learning their profession, the cadets were also trained to be commanders and received their officer ranks. Now, the cadets will progress onto a three-month long operational training course at the RPAV Academy, after which they will be integrated into their respective squadrons.

“We are very excited but we all know that this is just the beginning”, said Lt. Y’, a cadet at the course. When he thinks back on the events that shaped the last six months, Lt. Y’ doesn’t forget the instructional content he learned. And yet, the experiences that stuck with him the most are those that taught him how to be a human being. “The RPAV Operator Course is a professional course, but it doesn’t end there. We learned how to be operators, but we also learned how to be officers. Our course volunteered at a high school in which we helped schoolchildren learn for their matriculation exams”.

Even though the RPAV Division is constantly improving, responsible for most of the IAF’s operational flight hours while integrating capabilities from other divisions, the public is mostly unaware of its importance. “None of my friends or family have heard of the position before I enlisted. Even I barely ever heard of it”, said Lt. Y’. “However, even the little I tell my family makes me feel that they understand the division’s significance”.