A Hercules jet took off Monday afternoon from central Israel to the new Nevatim Israel Air Force base in the Negev, marking the start of the herculean IDF move to the Negev.
The move marks Monday's closing of the IAF's main transport base, in Lod, and its replacement in Nevatim. The new base will be formally dedicated later this week in the presence of President Shimon Peres and IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi
At the same time, infrastructure work is beginning on the new army city in the Negev, to be called Ir HaBahadim, or City of the Training Bases. Construction was long delayed because of environmental concerns. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is in attendance for a ceremony marking the construction.
The new town is set to be built on an area of 1,065 dunams (263 acres, just over a square kilometer), and will house the IDF's Armaments School, Logistics Training School, Military Police, and more. Ir HaBahadim will also include an inn for visitors, a shopping mall, a country club and theaters, and is expected to provide a welcome economic boon for the sparsely-populated area - as well as boost for the IDF, technologically and manpower-wise.
The move to the Negev, called "Project IDF Ascent to the Negev," is being termed by security network personnel "one of the largest and most important military projects in the history of the State of Israel." Some 11,000 soldiers, both in the standing army and career officers, will serve on the technological campus of the 4CI Branch - the army's Command, Control, Computers, Communications and Information Branch. Another 9,000 soldiers will serve in other branches there.
Ir HaBahadim (Bahad is an acronym for Bsis Hadrachah, or Training Base) has long been in the planning, and will feature state-of-the-art elements in the training and preparation spheres.