IAF gets first female squadron leader

Maj. G to lead Israel Air Force’s 122 Air Intelligence Squadron

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August 8, 2018 07:42
3 minute read.
The first woman to command an Israel Air Force squadron was appointed on Tuesday August 8, 2018.

The first woman to command an Israel Air Force squadron was appointed by IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Nurkin on Tuesday August 8, 2018. . (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)

 
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The first woman to command an Israel Air Force squadron was appointed by IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin on Tuesday.

Norkin appointed Maj. G. (her entire name is withheld due for security reasons) as commander of the 122 Squadron, the IAF’s intelligence unit based at the Nevatim Airbase in the South, flying Gulfstream 5 jets.

The IAF’s intelligence unit is increasing its number of complex reconnaissance missions in the air, with the “First” Squadron clocking at least 6,000 hours in 2016 alone. Elta Systems Ltd., a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, has supplied the Nachshon squadron with Eitam early warning aircraft and Shavit planes.

The Eitam is one the world’s most advanced aircraft of its kind and was recently supplied to Italy where it operated within the framework of NATO.

The Shavit is the first of its kind to be based on an executive jet. With its high-altitude, long-flight range and advanced system capabilities, the aircraft can detect the operation of electronic systems hundreds of kilometers away and in remote areas.

The IAF is the only air force that operates a squadron of mission planes of this type.

Conscripted in 2003, Maj. G. trained as a transport plane pilot and served in the 131rst Squadron (Beechcraft-200 “Zofit,” Beechcraft King Air C-12 “Kukiya” and Beechcraft A-36 “Hofit”) and in the 135th (Karnaf) Squadron.

She served as the deputy squadron commander of the Nachshon squadron from 2015-2017.
IDF video for International Women's Day (IDF Spokesperson's Unit)

Maj. G finished a command course last month. With her promotion to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, she will replace the current commander of the squadron in the coming months.

“I’m happy about the appointment,” said Maj. G. in a statement from the military. “It is a great privilege along with a great responsibility. The true work is still ahead. I am proud to serve in the air force.”

Last year, a senior IAF officer told The Jerusalem Post that a female IAF squadron commander was not far off.

He explained that the number of women requesting to serve in combat units – including in the air force – had steadily increased since 2000 and that the military was “now seeing the fruits of that.”


In 2014, a woman was named deputy commander of an operational squadron. While women have served as deputy commanders of support squadrons, the promotion of that woman made her the highest ranking woman in the IAF at the time.

In January, Norkin appointed the first woman to command an aviation squadron.

Major T. was promoted to lieutenant-colonel to head a squadron of IAF transport planes.

Another woman, Maj. M, was appointed to command the IAF’s operational command and control unit and was promoted to lieutenant-colonel. According to the army statement, she will become the first female air traffic controller to reach that rank.

In November, a woman was appointed deputy commander of a combat squadron. The officer, Capt. Y, an F-15 navigator, will serve in the Spearhead Squadron, which flies F-15 fighter jets out of Tel Nof Airbase in central Israel.

Two other female officers were appointed to serve as deputy commanders of a squadron of UAVs, or drones, out of Palmahim Airbase.

In 1949, Israel’s army became the first in the world to introduce mandatory military service for both men and women, and in 1951, Yael Rom became the first graduate of the prestigious pilot course. But shortly after, women were barred from combat positions, including blocked from becoming pilots.

In 1993, South African immigrant Alice Miller successfully sued the military for her right to enlist in the IAF. While she was declared medically unfit for the role of pilot, her actions shattered the IAF’s glass ceiling and opened the pilot course to women.

Five years later, Sheri Rahat graduated from the pilot course and became a navigator for the F-16 fighter jet. In 2000, Lt. Roni Zuckerman, the granddaughter of two leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, became the first woman to graduate as a combat fighter pilot. 

Despite encouraging women to enlist since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Miller in 1995, only 49 have completed the course.

According to the IAF, of the approximately 600 cadets who passed the preliminary tests for the prestigious course, about two thirds dropped out in the first year of the three-year intensive training and only 30-40 of those who stayed successfully completed the course.

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