Maj.G to lead IAF’s 122 Air Intelligence Squadron
The first woman to command an Israel Air Force squadron was appointed by IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Nurkin on Tuesday.
Norkin appointed Major G.(her entire name is withheld due to security reasons) as commander of the 122 air squadron, the IAF’s intelligence unit based out of the Nevatim Airbase in the south of the country fly Gulfstream 5 jets.
Israel Air Force’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.
Conscripted in 2003, she 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 135rst (Karnaf) squadron.
Major G served as the deputy squadron commander of the Nachshon squadron from 2015-2017.
She finished a command course last month and with her promotion with receive the rank of Lt.-Gen., and 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 Israel Air Force squadron commander was not far off.
He explained that the number of women requesting to serve in combat units – including in the air force – has steadily increased since 2000 and that the military is “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 this female officer 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 Israel Air Force 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 be the first female air traffic controller to reach that rank.
In November a woman was appointed Deputy Commander of a combat squadron. The officer, Captain.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. In addition, two other female officers were appointed to serve as deputy commanders of a squadron of UAVs out of Palmachim airbase.
In 1949, Israel’s army became the first in the world to introduce mandatory military service for both men and women, and today, and in 1951 Yael Rom became the first graduate of the prestigious pilots 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 into air force. While she was declared medically unfit for the role of a pilot, her actions shattered the glass ceiling in the IAF and opened up the pilot’s course to women
Five years later Sheri Rahat graduated from the pilot’s course and became a navigator for the F-16 fighter jet. In 2000 Lt. Roni Zuckerman, the granddaughter of two leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, became the first woman to graduate as a combat fighter pilot.
Despite the Air Force 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 of the prestigious pilots course, about two thirds drop out in the first year of the three-year long intensive course and only 30-40 of those who stayed will successfully complete the course.