Incoming Israeli Air force Chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Nurkin, 41, who took the command over from Amir Eshel at a ceremony on Monday, Aug. 14, plunges straight into the ongoing air campaigns Israel is waging covertly and continuously against Iranian, Hizballah and Islamic State targets.
Nurkin stressed in his first speech as new IAF commander: “The Middle East is changing before our eyes. Our missions and responsibilities are constantly expanding to meet global changes in the balance of power and rapidly mutating battlefield conditions. It is up to us to continue to find answers for future challenges and come up with new technologies. The IAF places high value on its close working ties with foreign air forces – some near and some distant – and will work hard to strengthen Israel’s position in the region and the world.”
Last week, Nurkin stressed the importance of the close cooperation between the air force and other IDF arms.
In is parting speech, Amir Eshel, who retires from five years as air force chief and 40 years of military service, commented: “Our soldiers have stood the test in recent years of thousands of operations, defensive and offensive, in five arenas. Sometimes, they served near by; sometimes thousands of kilometers from home. They thwarted threats, destroyed rockets and downed aerial vehicles – across the Middle and farther afield,.” he said.
Eshel concluded by saying that Israel’s enemies cannot possibly envision the full quality and scope of the IAF’s strength. “If we are forced to fight, they will have a shocking surprise.”
Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force, General David Goldfein attended the Israeli Air Force change of command ceremony at Tel Nof Air Base.. He awarded the Legion of Merit, (degree of Commander) to Maj. General Eshel and met with incoming Commander Maj. Gen. Norkin.
Eshel’s tenure covered two major anti-terror operations against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip: Operation Pillar of Defense and Operation Protective Edge, as well as hundreds of sorties and covert operations beyond Israel’s borders.
The chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Gady Eizenkot said: “The map of dangers is expanding and changing in form and this obliges us to work at top speed to adapt our capabilities to the contemporary battlefield. Terrorist organizations grow stronger and are moving up to our borders. The IDF is constantly compelled to maintain an exceptionally high state of preparedness against all threats.”
DEBKAfile’s military sources take the three general’s speeches together as a reference to the covert wars in which the Israeli air force is simultaneously engaged at this time – against Iran and Hizballah – and not only in the Syrian and Lebanese arenas – and against the Islamic State. These campaigns are usually limited in scope and usually use the element of surprise and the advantage of enemies short of the sophisticated air defense weaponry for jeopardizing Israeli warplanes.
What this means, in short, is that the big challenge for testing the IAF to its limit, is still ahead.