Israel Air Force: The IAF in the 21st Century
The IAF on the eve of the 21st century was a polished and professional air force. It is a far cry from the hastily collected assortment of surplus aircraft and volunteer pilots which flew in 1948. Today's IAF is a highly sophisticated force making use of the cutting edge of high technology and operating the most advanced equipment. The IAF of the year 2000 was a battle-tested air force with vast experience accumulated in numerous operations carried out in war and peace. Air combat, attacks on strategic targets, search and rescue missions carried out under fire and its humanitarian missions have earned for the IAF the respect of air forces throughout the world. The IAF today is the cornerstone of Israel's defense doctrine. It is a strong deterrent against enemy aggressive intentions and a solid defense in time of war.
Beyond Israel's peaceful borders with Egypt and Jordan , the IAF must deal with enormous challenges which threaten the State of Israel from all directions. During the Gulf War Israel was attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles. Iran is acquiring long-range missiles and may soon be able to arm them with nuclear warheads. Syria has taken a recalcitrant poisition and has dictated conditions for her negotiating with Israel. Negotiations with the Palestinians continue to be delicate. Israel's northern border continues to be a theatre of daily combat between the IDF and Hizbullah and other Islamic extremist organizations. Israel is fighting a war in southern Lebanon and is often called upon to pay a very dear price. The Israel Air Force is an integral part of this struggle. It demonstrates many varied capabilities in attacking and bombing terrorist targets, accompanying IDF elite units, using combat helicopters extensively, making use of UAVs , and evacuating casualties under fire. Despite the IAF's demanding security missions, the IAF does not neglect building up future force strength, and keeping up with the latest technology.
The Israel Air Force enters the 21st century, flying on the wings of the F-15I, advanced F-16's. The IAF deploys one of the world's most highly experienced helicopter forces, operating such helicopters as the Apache, Cobra, Blackhawk, and CH-53. Against the surface to surface missile threat the IAF deploys Patriot missiles and will soon deploy the "Arrow" . The IAF's air supply system is upgrading the Hercules as well as light transport aircraft. The IAF's command and control component employs the best means available in order to ensure a comprehensive picture of the air arena.
Throughout the entire theatre of operations, in all units, the IAF employs the most advanced systems of all times, most made in Israel, planned and build upon the combat experience and technological advantage enjoyed by the IAF and the State of Israel.
Alongside sophisticated, hi-tech weapons systems the IAF has a modern organizational philosophy whose role is to develop and streamline the management of human resources. This task is rendered more difficult in the age of massive immigration to Israel, with the differences in languages and customs among recruits. The organizational philosophy of the "air force family" has been a model for emulation among other services. This is a guarantee that the IAF will continue to meet the challenges of the future.
A Christian-Arab cadet was accepted into the Israeli Air Force 179th pilots course in February 2017; the first Christian-Arab to ever make it into the training program.
In May 2017 the IAF announced it would be phasing out it's manned Sea Scan maritime patrol aircraft, in favor of a maritime version of the Heron 1 drone. These drones will be used to protect Israel's naval borders, strategic infrastructure, and natural gas installations.
In 2019, the Israeli Air Force was set to welcome its first Druze pilot following his completion of the helicopter training program. Three other Druze airmen serve as navigators.
In September 2019, Lt. Col. G. (last names of active-duty soldiers are not published) became the first woman to command an Israeli Air Force squadron. The 35-year-old joined the IDF in 2003 and became a specialist in piloting transport aircraft. She subsequently served as deputy commander of the Nachshon Squadron, which operates surveillance aircraft before being promoted to commander.
Sources: IDF; Lilach Shoval, “IAF pilot makes history as first female squadron commander,” Israel Hayom, (September 25, 2019);
Yoav Zitun, “Israel Air Force set to welcome first Druze pilot in its history,” Ynet, (June 14, 2019).