Air Force appoints first ever female flight squadron commander
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Air Force appoints first ever female flight squadron commander

Maj. G. will head the IAF’s Nachshon Squadron, which operates surveillance aircraft, says, ‘It is a great privilege along with a great responsibility’

An undated photo of Maj. G., who on August 7, 2018, was named the first ever female pilot to command an Israel Air Force flight squadron. (Israel Defense Forces)
An undated photo of Maj. G., who on August 7, 2018, was named the first ever female pilot to command an Israel Air Force flight squadron. (Israel Defense Forces)

The Israel Air Force on Tuesday appointed a female pilot to head a flight squadron, the first woman to hold such a position.

The pilot, whose name cannot be published for security reasons, will command the Nachshon Squadron, which operates surveillance aircraft.

With her appointment to the post by IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, the pilot — who the army named only by her first initial as Maj. G. — will be promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

“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.”

Maj. G., 34, was deputy commander of Nachshon Squadron between 2015-2017. The military said she finished a command course a month ago and will replace the current commander of the squadron in the coming months.

Conscripted in 2003, the military said Maj. G. trained as a transport plane pilot and has served in the 131st and 135rd transport squadrons.

Maj. ‘Tet,’ who was named the air force’s first female aviation squadron commander, poses for a picture with her children and dog on January 16, 2018. (Israel Defense Forces)

Her appointment comes after the military named the first ever woman to head an IAF aviation squadron in January.

Unlike flight squadrons, which operate aircraft, aviation squadrons are responsible for ground-based operations.

In November the air force appointed its first female deputy commander of a fighter jet squadron to serve in the air force’s Spearhead Squadron, which flies F-15 fighter jets out of the Tel Nof air base in central Israel.

The military also announced last year that Maj. Gen. Norkin, the IAF commander, had appointed two other women to deputy commander positions in the military’s drone squadrons.

While women flew fighter planes in the 1948 Independence War and 1956 Sinai War, they were eventually booted from the program (as well as from other combat positions in the Israel Defense Forces).

In 1993, Alice Miller asked to try out for the IAF’s vaunted pilots’ course, but she was rebuffed. She then turned to the High Court of Justice, which ruled that she should be allowed into the program. However, Miller was eventually dropped from the course, after being deemed medically unfit.

In 1998, five years after Miller’s request, and five decades after Israel had its last female aviator, Sheri Rahat graduated from the pilots’ course, becoming a navigator for the F-16 fighter jet, but not technically a pilot.

Three years later, Roni Zuckerman, a granddaughter of Zivia Lubetkin and Yitzhak Zuckerman, two leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, graduated as Israel’s first female fighter pilot.

Despite those strides, the overwhelming majority of fighter pilots in the Israeli Air Force are still men, mostly because of the physical fitness requirements.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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