How to Build an Airport Overnight

A long night awaits the soldiers of the Frontal Landing Unit, who accompany “C-130 Hercules” planes and carefully make sure they land safely on ground. After a long and sleepy ride through the southern heat, they arrive at the fields and any vestige of fatigue disappears from their faces.

They swiftly exit the military vehicle and begin to unload the equipment. Boxes, rods, sleeping bags, communicators and hoes are passed quickly from hand to hand with an air of professionalism that only arises from soldiers who have done this dozens of times. Within several minutes, an improvised camp is set up and all that is left to do is mark runways before the night descends.

Sodiers of the Frontal Landing Unit marking the runway, IAF, Israeli Air Force

Sodiers of the Frontal Landing Unit marking the runway

There is still a while before the giant, military-splotched planes take off. So meanwhile, Pvt. Itamar and Cpl. Dean take care of a meal for the unit. Dean, a non-commissioned officer of weaponry and instruction, is from a Kibbutz and heard about the unit during his pre-army Service Year.

“This is exactly what I was looking for”, he says, “a small unit with vast fields. In training we enter wide areas and prepare the ground for the “Hercules” planes. We take the jeep there, accelerate, check if the ground is suitable and finally decide if the plane will be able to taxi there. We have a good atmosphere, lots of cooking”, he says while peeling a potato. “I’m happy to be here”. Today, the unit is practicing building a temporary airport in the open fields and is taking advantage of the opportunity to train the “Elephants” squadron in dirt landings.

The Landing Unit Soldiers Watching the "Hercules" Landing, IAF, Israel Air Force

The Landing Unit Soldiers Watching the "Hercules" Landing

Toward sunset, the unit starts to lower its profile and each soldier resumes his specific role: Crew Commander, Earth Tester, Medic or Firefighter. A round moon watches them from above the Desert Mountains, the onions sizzle in the pan and shining red flashlights create a long, organized landing strip. The only thing missing is the “Hercules”.

Without special night-vision technology, it is hard to notice the “Hercules” planes arriving one by one in groups of four, galloping on the dirt runways and leaving behind them tremendous clouds of sand. Finally, the practice is over and the final plane leaves to return to Nevatim Airbase, taking off into the black sky. At midnight, like in a fairytale, the elaborate landing strip becomes once again nothing more than a field of sand.

A "Hercules" Dirt-Landing at Night, IAF, Israel Air Force

A "Hercules" Dirt-Landing at Night

“Thank you for the exercise”, the voice of the pilot erupts from the communicator. “Really, it was a good, elaborate exercise. Good night”.

Article by the IAF Website.

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