The IDF is grounding training flights in the Israeli air force, effective immediately, according to a report late Tuesday night by Walla!
Starting next Sunday, pilots will fly only during actual operations and in flight school, IAF fighter jet commanders were told Tuesday night. The IDF decision to ground the planes includes reserve pilots as well, and was made jointly by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.
The decision to clip the wings of Israel’s air force came after the Finance Ministry refused to send the Defense Ministry a payment of NIS 750 million ($215 million) for basic maintenance, training and drills.
Last October the Defense Ministry had asked for an increase in its budget after it had taken steps to streamline operations. The Cabinet approved a decision to transfer NIS 2.75 billion to the defense establishment from the budget surplus that existed at the time.
Nevertheless, Finance Minister Yair Lapid has continued to advocate for a cut in the budget instead, hoping to use those funds for social services.
In the long run, it may be that the equipment will come out the biggest loser of all, however. Brig.-Gen. (res) Assaf Agmon, head of the Fisher Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies, was quoted as saying, “a plane that doesn’t fly suffers in terms of its condition; rubber dries out, the body is damaged. It’s for good reason pilots often air out their plane for 15 minutes before a mission, so as to preserve the plaine’s flight condition.”
A source in the Defense Ministry told Walla!, the Finance Ministry “refused to hold logical negotiations while at least making good on its earlier commitments, and therefore we had no choice but to make decisions like these.”
“The IDF planned in a responsible manner the work plans for 2014 according to the missions and the size of the army, as approved in October by the Cabinet, and in January by the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committe,” the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit said in a statement. “Throughout that time the meaning of the approval of a work plan with an inadequate budget was presented to all the relevant parties. It was made clear that in May, the IDF would reach an extreme point at which hard decisions would be required.”