(photo credit: AP)
"The Arab states are fully aware of the extraordinary capabilities of the Israel Air Force, sometimes more so than Israeli citizens - and that's the way it should be," President Shimon Peres said on Tuesday during a tour of air force bases in the Negev.
"We have the best response to any of the hazards that confront us," said Peres, referring specifically to threats from Gaza and Iran. "The State of Israel, with the IAF in the lead, is a united front against the horrific dangers of Iran which is using nuclear weapons as a means of returning to the Dark Ages."
Escorted by OC Air Force Maj.-Gen. Eliezer Shkedy, Peres, who is one of the architects of the Israel Aircraft Industries, took justifiable pride in what the IAF has accomplished.
Professional management, quality pilots and advanced technology combined to make the IAF the best air force in the world, he said.
A strong and constant advocate for technological know-how, Peres, who frequently tells visiting dignitaries that Israel's innovative high tech industry emerged out of its defense needs in an acute example of necessity being the mother of invention, took a keen interest in the IAF's latest technological developments.
Peres was close to earlier developments more than half a century ago when he served as Defense Ministry director-general, and some years later as defense minister.
During his tour, he was particularly interested in inspecting missiles, warning systems and intelligence gathering planes.
Peres was received in a full military ceremony at the Hatzorim base, where he met with air cadets, officers and pilots. His most exciting moment however, was when he entered the cockpit of an F-15, donned a pilot's helmet and activated the electronic battle signal.
Shkedy told Peres the IAF did not rest on its laurels, and constantly endeavored to enhance its operational capabilities, which enabled it to be prepared for every possible emergency.
Shkedy noted the importance of moving IAF bases to the Negev and of setting up a new unit for haredim who are being fully integrated into the IAF's technological systems.
Shkedy also spoke of the IAF's para-air force classes in more than 50 high schools throughout the country in which advanced technology studies are part of the curricula. The IAF has opened up most positions to women, he said, and a decision had been taken that every field of operations should have a female ratio of not less than 15 percent.
Shkedy did not forget that one of Peres's pet projects is the quality of the environment. The IAF, said Shkedy, was advancing the agenda of environmental conservation through the use of solar energy and electrically-powered motors.
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