Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz will in the coming weeks decide who
will be the next commander of the air force and perhaps command one of
Israel’s most complicated aerial missions ever – an attack on Iran’s
nuclear facilities.RELATED:Barak downplays 'shadow war' against Iran
The main contenders for the post are OC
Planning Directorate Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel; Maj.-Gen. Yohanan Locker,
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s military adviser; and Brig.-Gen.
Nimrod Shefer, the current deputy commander of the air force.
Current IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nehushtan will step down in April.
appointment of a new air force chief traditionally makes headlines in
Israel, but this time it is particularly intriguing due to the
possibility that the next commander will be ordered by the government to
oversee a strike on Iran’s well-protected and distant atomic
As a result, there is speculation that the next
commander will be selected based on his opinions regarding the chances
of such an attack’s success.
Eshel, who was deputy commander of
the IAF from 2006 to 2008, is considered the front-runner. As head since
then of the Planning Directorate, which is responsible for IDF’s
external affairs, Eshel has developed close ties with the Pentagon and
other militaries around the world.
Locker is also believed to
have strong chances due to his close relationship with Netanyahu. While
the IDF chief of staff appoints members of the General Staff, the
appointment needs to be approved by Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who has
intervened recently in a number of key military appointments.
Shefer’s chances are deemed slim since he has not yet served on the General Staff. Gantz recently met with all three candidates.
former IAF commander said that the role of the IAF commander when
considering an Israeli attack against Iran is critical since without
this officer’s support and confidence in the operation, it would be
nearly impossible to launch it.
“The IAF commander needs to believe in the operation, its viability and
success,” the former commander explained. “He will need to convince the
chief of staff and together they will need to convince the defense
minister and the prime minister.”
Meanwhile on Friday, concern
mounted in Israel over the possibility that the production of the F-35
Joint Strike Fighter will be delayed and Israeli procurement plans will
The concern came after the Pentagon F-35 program
director, V.-Adm. David Venlet, called to slow down production of the
Lockheed Martin F-35, because of the potential number of cracks and “hot
spots” turning up in fatigue testing and analysis.
hot spots that have arisen in the last 12 months or so in the program
have surprised us at the amount of change and at the cost,” Venlet said
in an interview with Web-based publication AOL Defense.
them are little ones. But when you bundle them all up and package them,
and look at where they are in the airplane and how hard they are to get
at after you buy the jet, the cost burden of that is what sucks the wind
out of your lungs,” Venlet said.
“I believe it’s wise to sort of
temper production for a while here, until we get some of these heavy
years of learning under our belt and get that managed right,” he said.
In response to the report Lockheed Martin said "the F-35 test program is going extremely well as evidenced by the fact we have already exceeded the planned test flights and test points for 2011. Concerning the concurrency changes addressed in the article, none of the required changes are safety issues, affect aircraft performance or beyond normal expectations.
"From a cost perspective the decision to have concurrency on the F-35 program was made to reduce risk and production costs simultaneously. The concurrency costs for F-35 continue to reduce for each lot as experienced by all fighter aircraft development programs. Going forward the savings associated with building at increased production rates will continue to mitigate the diminishing concurrency costs. In addition, the cost to upgrade and maintain an aging fleet of aircraft the program was designed to replace should be considered in this decision."
October, Israel signed a $2.75 billion deal to buy a squadron of 20
F-35s from Lockheed Martin and has received Pentagon approval to buy an
additional 55 at a later date. Delivery is scheduled to commence in
The IDF has budgeted the procurement of a second squadron
under its new multi-year plan that is expected to go into effect in the
beginning of 2012.
The Defense Ministry has in the past said that
procurement plans will not be affected by delays to the US program, but
senior IDF officers said recently that additional delays could lead the
IAF to consider buying new F-15s or F-16s to bridge the gap until the
F-35s arrive, if that is pushed back later than 2017.