Leadership: Israeli Air Force Gives It Up


July 28, 2009: Israel is now assigning air force helicopter squadrons to combat brigades, rather than have helicopters assigned by an air force headquarters, on an as needed basis. During the recent (last January) war with Hamas, Israel experimented with putting the helicopter squadrons under the direct control of the combat brigade commander, and it worked much better than the traditional (going through the air force headquarters) method. The U.S. has long assigned helicopter battalions to ground commanders. But it's easier for the Americans, because the helicopter units belong to the army.

In many countries, helicopters belong to the air force, and the air force is reluctant to give control of these units to ground unit commanders, no matter how much tactical sense that might make. The Israeli Air Force has long been a highly respected organization, that even the army deferred to. But after the air force overestimated its abilities during the 2006 war with Hezbollah, the army felt justified in asking for a change in the way helicopters (transport and gunships) were controlled in combat.

The new change is partly the result of the helicopter units training a lot with the ground units over the years, and also feeling that the extra layer of air force headquarters was counterproductive.



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