Members of Hadassah’s Society of Major Donors received a special briefing by an Israeli Air Force officer on a visit to an IAF base in southern Israel on Monday.
The deputy squadron commander, who flies an F-16, spoke to them about IAF pilot training and preparedness. He said that the recently incorporated Iron Dome air defense system that intercepts short-range missiles and rockets had become a strategic weapon that deterred Israel’s enemies from attacking certain military and civilian sites.
He also described the daily training routine on the base and showed the guests aerial maps that illustrate the IAF’s coverage of every part of Israel.
The group, which is in Israel for Hadassah’s Centennial Convention, viewed a video of an IAF bombing in 2009’s Operation Cast Lead of a mosque in Gaza that served as a weapons cache and pointed out that such situations caused pilots deep dilemmas.
“We talked about this so much that judging from our conversations we would have guessed that about 90 percent of our targets must have been mosques, schools or hospitals,” he said. “But an analysis found the actual number was just 3 percent.”
In response to a question about the infiltration of a Hezbollah drone into Israeli airspace last week, the pilot said the IAF had detected it and followed it closely until it decided to intercept it. He declined to answer questions about possible future scenarios in the region.
During the briefing, the officer invited a volunteer to don pilot’s gear and flight helmet to illustrate their sophistication. Later the group was taken to a hangar where members were allowed to look inside the cockpit of an F-16 which was armed with Python 5 advanced air-air missiles.
The HSMD field trip was sponsored by Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF), partners with Hadassah since 1926 in land acquisition, forestation and reclamation of swampland.
Following the visit to the airbase, the group toured some of KKL-JNF’s projects in the Negev. The visitors were impressed by the Beersheba River Park project of recreational areas in the southern city, as well as by Beersheba’s dramatic growth over the last decades.