Israel’s air force is “trained and ready” for the missions that lie ahead, Israel’s outgoing air force chief Ido Nehushtan said, in an apparent reference to a possible Israeli military strike on Iran, in an interview broadcast on Thursday night.

“The Israel Air Force understands the missions it may be carrying out. It is devising operational plans. It is building its strength. It is innovating,” said Nehushtan on Channel 2′s TV news.

Asked whether he was speaking of Iran, Nehushtan said with a wry smile, “I think I’ve said enough.”

Earlier this week, Nehushtan’s successor had spoken in similar if slightly vaguer terms. Taking over the air force command, Amir Eshel promised that “the air force will be sharp and lethal, near and far.”

Israel’s leaders have said repeatedly that Iran must not be allowed to go nuclear, and indicated that they are contemplating military intervention if all other efforts to thwart Iran fail.

In a TIME magazine cover profile, to published next week but obtained on Thursday by The Times of Israel, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the Iranian nuclear drive as “the greatest threat not just to Israel and the Middle East but to civilization,” because, he said, “You don’t know how they will behave” if they attain the bomb.

Asked whether he thinks the Iranians are rational actors, Netanyahu replied: “People say that, but how do you know that?”

The writer, TIME’s Managing Editor Richard Stengel, noted in the piece that “Bibi does not share the general faith in negotiations or give any ground on the military option. There’s a greater threat in doing nothing, he says, than in acting. Game theory would also suggest that there is no downside to Bibi’s bluster. But he gives no hint that he is anything but dead serious.”

“It could be the first time we have a nuclear player who will not necessarily play by the rules,” the prime minister said of Iran in the interview. “All the previous nuclear powers have been careful.”