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IDF Announces Plans to Place Female Combat Soldiers on Naval Warships

The Israeli army announced on Wednesday that it has launched a pilot program to place female combat soldiers on navy warships, just months after the Armored Corps completed its own successful trial of having women serve in tanks, The Times of Israel reported.

“In the framework of the November 2018 enlistment, five female soldiers were recruited for the first time to serve as naval fighters on the Sa’ar 6 missile ships,” the army said in a statement. The female sailors began the navy’s basic training program last week at its Haifa Base in the northern port city. A sixth female soldier will join the other participants at the end of basic training.

According to Lt. Col. Avi Avsker, who is responsible for training the female sailors, “They will be operating some of the most advanced weapons systems that are used not only in Israel, but in the world.” He added that, “They are also serving at sea. This is not trivial,” referring to dangerous weather conditions and other maritime threats.

Until now, female sailors could only serve on smaller patrol boats, but were not permitted for placement on the larger Sa’ar class. The recruits will begin their service on the Sa’ar 5 INS Lahav and will eventually move to the Sa’ar 6 INS Magen next year, when the ship becomes operational.

“The arrival of the ships will significantly change the face of the navy,” said the head of the Israeli Navy Maj. Gen. Eli Sharvit. “The navy will operate vessels with new capabilities that we do not currently possess,” he added.

In a historic move, four women officially finished tank commanders course and became the IDF’s first female tank commanders after a 16-month grueling pilot program in June. At a ceremony for the women who completed the training in December, the head of the corps’ training brigade Col. Moran Omer observed, “We’re standing before a bit of history. For the first time, a tank operator medal will be pinned on the uniform of female IDF soldiers.”

Last year, the Israeli Air Force encouraged more women to enlist in their prestigious pilot’s courses to increase gender integration in the military. 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 ]