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IAF Makes 'Extreme' Decision To Cancel Training Flights

Finance Ministry reportedly 'refused' to keep IAF in the air for training; forces a move generals warn will cause serious harm.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 5/27/2014, 11:01 PM

IAF F-15
IAF F-15
Flash 90

IAF fighter jet commanders were informed on Tuesday evening that due to IDF budget cuts it was decided that starting next Sunday, no more training flights will be conducted.

According to the decision, flights would only be carried out as part of actual operations, in instances requiring on-call alertness and at flight school. All training would be halted.

The commanders were told to let pilots in the reserves know that the cutting of training includes them as well, according to Walla!. The decision was made with the support of Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

A senior security official said last week the Defense Ministry tried to convince the Finance Ministry to send an immediate 750 million shekels ($215 million) to fund joint expenses for minimal maintenance, training and drills.

However, they report that the Finance Ministry "refused to hold logical negotiations while standing on earlier obligations, and therefore we were forced to make decisions of this type."

Finance Minister Yair Lapid has called to slash the defense budget and use the money to improve social services. Last October, it was decided to transfer 2.75 billion shekels from the budget surplus to defense, after the defense establishment asked for an increase in its budget following a series of streamlining steps.

The IDF Spokesperson Unit said "the IDF planned in a responsible manner the work plans for 2014 according to the missions and the size of the army as was approved in October by the Cabinet, and in January by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee."

"Throughout that time the meaning of the approval of a work plan with a lacking budget was presented to all the relevant sources. It was clarified that in May, the IDF would reach an extreme point where hard decisions would be demanded," concluded the statement.

Reserve commanders react to "extreme" decision

Reserve IAF commanders responded to the decision, reportedly calling it harsh, complicated and extreme.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Asaf Agmon, head of the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, commented "I don't remember a period like this in which the Air Force was forced to generally halt its flights."

Agmon reported that he had investigated the announcement, and found that "simply there is no money to fund the flights." 

The general reports being told that there was a proposal to limit the scope of training flights, but given the harm such a move posed to the abilities, and consequently the safety, of pilots, it was decided to stop flights completely until the financial situation was addressed.

In addition to the effect on pilots, Agmon noted "a plane that doesn't fly suffers in terms of its condition; rubber dries out, the body is damaged. It's for good reason pilots often air out their plane for 15 minutes before a mission so as to preserve the plane's flight condition."

The IAF is due to receive a new training aircraft, a Lavi model M-346, from its Italian maker Alenia Aermacchi in July. However, IAF chief and Major General Amir Eshel said last Friday that pilots would be trained to fly the aircraft significantly later.