28th October 2014|Nancy Spielberg’s new and eagerly awaited documentary film Above and Beyond, a project about the nascent Israel Air Force (IAF) that was jointly undertaken by Playmount Productions and Katahdin Productions, is being screened at select venues worldwide. Earlier today (28 October 2014/4 Cheshvan 5775) the Jerusalem Post and other publications reported a Business Insider study that determined the IAF is the best aerial arm.
During Israel’s 1948 War of Independence what would become the modern Israel Air Force (זְרוֹעַ הַאֲוִויר וְהַחָלָל / ‘Air and Space Arm’) scrounged for and then relied upon WWII surplus and deficient contemporary aircraft such as the Avia S-199 to defend the young nation’s airspace and ground forces.
Despite equipment shortages, the highly trained volunteers Israel obtained, being largely veterans of the Royal Air Force, U.S. Army Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force, South African Air Force, U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, proved their superior mettle in combat and as a result of their proficiencies Israel prevailed in its struggle to survive. The foregoing fact was not lost on a pilot Erzer Weizman.
The IAF’s competitive, selective and perfectionist philosophy originated with Weizman, one of the pilots who flew and fought during the 1948 conflict and later commanded the IAF. He relied upon the philosophy of ‘recruiting the best’ for the air force. As expressed in his 1977 book On Eagle’s Wings, Weizman essentially believed that ground forces could not hold territory without Israel enjoying air superiority. The IAF had to consistently win in the air.
Doing so, Weizman knew, required the perpetual acquisition of superior pilots, planes and armaments. To this day his vision remains as policy. In fact, a Business Insider article (The 11 Most Powerful Militaries in the World) states, “Israel spends significantly more than its neighbors proportionally for defense. In 2009, Israel spent 18.7% of its national budget on defense. Israel’s defense budget stands at $15 billion.” This spending enables the small Asian country to produce highly trained and efficient pilots.
Furthermore, Israel’s high tech and aerospace industries produces state-of-the-art avionics, missiles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). As a result, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] Blog: Israel Air Force Blog justifiably boasts that, “The Israel Air Force is universally recognized to be among the world’s most powerful aerial fighting forces” and since the time of “Israel’s founding, it has played a major role in securing the country’s numerous military victories.”
Although the IDF takes nearly all young adults and uses them advantageously, only the ‘cream of the crop’ enters the IAF. As a Wikipedia entry (Israeli Air Force Flight Academy) states, only the “most qualified succeed in completing what is seen by many as the world’s most demanding military selection course.” Additionally, the Jewish Virtual Library article Israel Air Force: Training in the IAF points out that a “common element for all trainees is the constant pressure to excel. Only 10% of the original candidates succeed in earning their wins.”
Israel begins the search process while potential fliers are still in secondary school. Selective criteria include grades received, courses successfully completed, English fluency, an optimal physical conditioning and technical aptitude.
Flight training encompasses 3 years of intense mental and physical training. Those cadets who make it past the constant screenings and multifaceted examinations eventually fly the Grob 120, powered by an air-cooled piston aircraft engine, Beechcraft T-6 Texan II turboprop and turbojet Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master trainers. Proficiency in these types determines the candidates’ ultimate destination. Successful students will either be posted to fixed-wing or rotary-wing (helicopter) schools. Others may strive to obtain navigator or engineer certifications, or become UAV operators. The remainder typically enter the intelligence, maintenance and logistics fields as officers.
It is true that other countries possess numerical superiority with respect to aircraft and manpower, and history has shown that overwhelming quantity can defeat quality in protracted and widespread conflicts. Nevertheless, Chris Harmer, the Senior Naval Analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, is quoted in the Business Insider feature (The Most Powerful Militaries In The Middle East [RANKED]) as stating the following: “Pilot to pilot, airframe to airframe, the Israeli air force is the best in the world.” To confirm his finding simply ask objective friends and foes who train with and have fought against Israeli pilots.
20th Century Aviation Magazine Note to Readers: Above and Beyond is, according to Playmount Productions and Katahdin Productions, “the first major feature-length documentary about the critical roles foreign volunteer airmen played in Israel’s 1948 War for Independence. The film examines the motivations of the Jewish and non-Jewish foreign volunteers. 20th Century Aviation Magazine photojournalist John Stemple will attend a screening in November. He will subsequently post an article about the showing and a film review of Above and Beyond.
Sources, Suggested Readings & Viewings
Above and Beyond Film Trailer
Above and Beyond Screenings
Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master
Beechcraft T-6 Texan II
Clear Skies – The Story of the Israeli Air Force, DVD, Producer: Reuven Dorot.
IAF Texan II T-6.wmv
IDF Blog: Israel Air Force
Katz, Samuel M., Israel’s Air Force, Motorbooks International (Osceola), 1991
Institute for the Study of War
Israeli Air Force
Israeli Air Force Flight Academy
Israeli Air Force is Best in World
Israel Air Force: Training in the IAF
Israeli allies fly with U.S. forces at Red Flag
Israel’s air force the best in the world, study finds
Military & Defense More: Military Defense Fighter Jets Nuclear Weapons
The 35 Most Powerful Militaries In The World
Norton, Bill, Air War on the Edge – A History of the Israel Air Force and its Aircraft since 1947, Midland Publishing. 2004.
Stunning Footage of Israel Air Force Training Practice
The 11 Most Powerful Militaries In The World
The Most Powerful Militaries In The Middle East [RANKED]
Weizman, Ezer, On Eagles’ Wings: The Personal Story of the Leading Commander of the Israeli Air Force, Macmillan Pub Co; 1st American ed edition, 1977.
Women in the Israel Defense Forces