The Israeli Air Force (IAF) is encouraging more women to enlist in their prestigious pilots courses, in an effort to increase gender integration in the military, The Jerusalem Post reported  on Wednesday.
“A plane doesn’t care if it’s a woman or a man flying it. The Air Force wants the best of the best, and not enough women try out for the pilots course,” said the Head of the Personnel Directorate Brig.-Gen Nathan Israeli at Haterzim Air Force Base outside Beersheba.
“Our decision to encourage more women to join the course is from operational needs; they can improve the flight school and the entire corps,” he stated, adding that “The Air Force needs the best and smartest people to fly on the most advanced platforms. There are no gender issues when flying.”
As a result, the IAF has decided to take concrete steps to encourage more women to apply for the pilots course. For those who don’t complete the training, high-quality positions in operational and technological units will be reserved.
Despite IAF efforts to recruit women to the role, only 48 have so far completed the course since a Supreme Court ruling in 1995, which opened up the pilots course to women. One more female pilot will join their ranks next week when the latest course will finish, which includes ultra-Orthodox recruits as well as a member of the Ethiopian community.
For Capt. N, a helicopter pilot who graduated along with five other female pilots in 2011 and flew several missions during Operation Protective Edge in 2014, “there is a difference on the ground but not in the air.”
The IAF is expected to continue to promote female officers to senior positions, such as Capt. Y, who in November became the first female pilot to be appointed deputy commander of a combat squadron. She will serve in the Spearhead Squadron as an F-15 navigator out of Tel Nof Airbase in central Israel.
“I won’t force anyone to be a pilot, but I would suggest to everyone to come and give the course a try, especially women. There are not enough,” said the commander of the IAF flight school, Col. Omer.
He added: “To pass the pilots course you need to have a spark in your eye. We are looking for the people who don’t give up and are ready to give everything they have.”
The IDF was one of the world’s first militaries to open  combat positions to women some 20 years ago, and has since made roughly 90 percent of roles available to both sexes. These include combat roles in the navy, Home Front Command, Artillery Corps and Military Police in the West Bank, as well as operating the Spike (Tammuz) missile and the Skylark drone.
[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr]