f-15 silent eagle 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy Boeing Co.)
IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz decided on Sunday to appoint
Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel as the next commander of the Israel Air Force. The
appointment was approved by Defense Minister Ehud Barak.
currently serves as head of the IDF Planning Directorate, will replace Maj.-
Gen. Ido Nehushtan, who will step down in April after four years in the
The appointment of the next IAF commander has been surrounded by
controversy in recent weeks amid reports that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
was pressuring Gantz
to tap his military adviser, Maj.-Gen. Yohanan Locker, a
former deputy IAF commander, for the position.
The appointment of a new
air force chief traditionally makes headlines, but this time it is particularly
intriguing due to the possibility that the government will order the next
commander to oversee a strike on Iran’s well-protected and distant nuclear
Eshel served as deputy commander of the IAF from 2006 to
2008 under Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Shkedy. Before that, he was head of the IAF’s Air
Wing, commander of the Tel Nof air base and head of the IAF Operations Division.
Locker is said to be a candidate to replace Eshel or serve as the IDF attaché to
the United States.
The father of three and a graduate of Auburn
University in Alabama and the Israeli National Defense College, Eshel
volunteered for flight training in 1977. After graduating from the prestigious
and arduous course, he quickly climbed the ranks.
He flew A-4 Skyhawks
during the first Lebanon War and later became commander of an F-4 Phantom
squadron. Eshel became renowned for the IAF’s 2003 Auschwitz
Within the IDF, he has enjoyed the respect of his counterparts
for his close-to three decades of service, during which he spearheaded a revolutionary
improvement in the level of inter-operability between the IAF and ground
Eshel recently voiced concern over the possible consequences of
Iran’s success in obtaining a nuclear weapon, claiming it would severely impair
Israel’s operational freedom. He also warned of the possibility that Syria’s
chemical weapons would be obtained by terrorist groups like Hezbollah.