On August 13th, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) published plans for the development of the Israeli Air Force in the coming years.
Air Force Commander, Major General Amikam Norkin, summed up the necessary work to improve the effectiveness of the Air Force and their training for the coming years.
Some of the points of the program are designed for a decade ahead, others are shorter-term.
The coronavirus pandemic, the deteriorating economic situation in Israel and in the world, as well as a general view of the strategic situation in the Middle East played an important role in the program.
As a result, it was decided to accelerate a number of plans for the future and implement them in the coming years.
The common goal of all these steps is to increase combat effectiveness on the one hand, save money and use resources more efficiently on the other.
The program includes:
- Creation of the 7th air wing (“Kanaf 7”) – a wing of the Air Force Special Operation Forces. Officially established on July 12th 2020 at Palmachim Air Force Base.
- The disbandment of the 117th squadron (F-16C Block 30) at the Ramat David base in October 2020. This was announced back in May. The Air Force is transferring two F- squadrons to this base. This means that all Barak aircraft of the Air Force (F-16C / D) will be concentrated in Ramat David, consisting of 101st (F-16C Block 40), 105th (F-16D Block 40) and 109- 1st (F-16D Block 30) squadrons. This step will strengthen the air force in the north of the country, near the main potential theaters. This will also lead to saving funds, since the logistics and maintenance will be focused in one base.
- The Hatzor base will lose all combat aircraft squadrons. The Air Force is transforming this base into a “UAV and reconnaissance base”. In July 2019, the 100th Light Transport Squadron was relocated here, one of the main tasks of which is visual reconnaissance. The 420th squadron of combat aircraft simulators is also located here. As far as is known, there are no UAV squadrons at the base yet, but judging by what has been said, it is planned to position them in Hatzor. The Air Force website emphasizes that already 75% of the Air Force’s operational flight hours are performed by UAVs.
- The 193rd Marine Helicopter Squadron will receive an SH-60F Sea Hawk (and similar) helicopters, and will be relocated from Ramat David to Palmachim. The base already hosts the 123rd and 124th squadrons of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. As in the case of the Barak, this step will allow the logistics and maintenance of the helicopters to be concentrated in one base.
- The Air Force Aviation School, based at BAHA-21 (Haifa), will move to the south, in connection with the desire of the Air Force to concentrate the training process of the Air Force personnel at one base.
- The air defense went to an all-Israeli continuous mode of operation, with a high level of integration and central control. The Air Force continues to strengthen its air defense, however, to improve efficiency, it was decided to reduce the deployment of Patriot Defense batteries only at the central positions.
- The Air Force Air Traffic Control School was opened on July 19th, 2020 at the Ovda base. It aims to maximize the concentration of all courses for air controllers and air traffic controllers in one place and relieve the operational units from the need to deal with these issues.
- Improving the training of pilots – the Flight School adopted Lavi (M-346) aircraft, new training methods, and simulators.
At the same time some other changes (and not only are being introduced such as:
- Air Force budget – about 5.5 billion shekels ($1.6 billion) out of 32 billion ($9.4 billion) IDF budget;
- Large air force exercises will be held in Germany soon – 2 squadrons of F-16, as well as tankers and AWACS aircraft, will be deployed in Germany; a major exercise will be held in Italy in 2021;
- The choice of a new helicopter to be purchased (CH-53K or CH-47) will be made before the end of the year; the option of additional purchase of V-22 is still possible;
- 4 KS-46A tanker aircraft will be purchased, the first will arrive in Israel in 2024;
- 2 squadrons of new combat aircraft will be purchased – the F-15X squadron (previously it was the F-15IA plus the modernization of the existing F-15I squadron to this level) and the third F-35I squadron.
It is reported that already now the Air Force has 6 operational UAV squadrons at 4 different bases and new ones will be created. So the focus is also heavily moving towards usage of UAVs, despite the expanding fleet of manned aircraft.
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