For the first time since entering the role, Commander of the French Air Force, General Philippe Lavigne, landed in Israel to continue to strengthen the strategic cooperation between the two forces and nations. During his visit, General Lavigne met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and the French Ambassador to Israel, as well as with IAF senior officials who presented the current strategic situational picture. The General toured IAF airbases and was briefed on the increasingly relevant field of drone defense
On Monday, Commander of the French Air Force, General Philippe Lavigne, landed in Israel for the first time, as part of a visit intended to strengthen the cooperation between the Israeli and French Air Forces. The visit took place within the Health Ministry's Coronavirus guidelines. To minimize contact, General Lavigne landed in a French transport plane at Tel-Nof AFB, and his visit lasted 24 intensive hours during which he met with IAF officials, learned about the IAF's capabilities, and deepened cooperation between the two forces, militaries and countries.
"The significance of the event during the Covid-19 pandemic is greater, as General Lavigne was willing to visit the country in such a sensitive period, just a week after France entered a lockdown. The visit emphasizes the strong camaraderie between the commanders on a personnel level, and the forces, militaries, and countries as a whole", opened Col. A, IAF Attaché in France. "France is an important country that influences the countries that surround us. France has close ties throughout the Middle East and its forces often operate to maintain peace and stability in the Mediterranean region. Their activity has only increased in recent years. The connection between the two militaries is always growing and their relations with all IDF branches are advancing - in intelligence and other fields".
Learning from Each Other
General Lavigne's visit opened with a formal dinner at Tel-Nof AFB, hosted by Commander of the IAF, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin. Yesterday (Tuesday), the General toured Israeli airbases and met with the President of Israel, Reuven Rivlin, and the French ambassador to Israel. The meeting was a reciprocal event that followed President Rivlin's visit to France with Maj. Gen. Norkin in early 2019.
A helicopter tour over Israel offered a great opportunity for General Lavigne to witness Israel's unique scenery. The tour took off from the President's residence in Jerusalem and ended in Southern Israel, with the desert views that characterize the area of Hatzerim AFB. Throughout the day, General Lavigne participated in a series of briefings on the IAF. He was given a tour of the IAF Flight Academy at Hatzerim AFB, where he observed the training of Flight Course Cadets, specifically preparing them for fifth-generation aircraft. The General joined a flight in the advanced "Lavi" (M-364) jet and was shown a flight simulator that demonstrated Israel's virtual training capabilities. General Lavigne later visited the Center for Mission Training at Hatzor AFB, where he watched a training mission of IAF "Baz" (F-15) pilots.
The visit's participants gathered for a specialist's panel that presented the current strategic situation, the force's capabilities, and reviewed various fields. General Lavigne was briefed on drone defense, a subject of significant relevance for both of the forces daily operational needs, especially in preparation for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
"This visit strengthens the trust between the forces and the fact that the French Air Force Commander can trust the Israeli Air Force. At a time of need, he knows he can ask for assistance, as he's familiar with the IAF's current capabilities", presented Col. A. "Mutual learning creates shared gain and contributes to improvement".
Strengthening the Partnership
The IAF and French Air Force share a professional history. IAF pilots flew in French aircraft for many years. In recent years, the cooperation between the nations strengthened when the French Air Force participated in the bi-annual "Blue Flag" international training exercise held in Israel. Throughout the exercise, French Mirage aircraft flew in Israeli skies for the first time since the 1982 Lebanon War, when they were taken out of service in the IAF.
The first visit of the French Air Force Commander in Israel focused on advancing the cooperation plans between the two forces, outlining the focal points for future partnership, and the continuation of building the personal bond between the two Air Force commanders. As part of the cooperation between both forces in recent years, an Israeli-French squadron- crew exchange was held to strengthen mutual learning and create shared benefits. Additionally, more joint training exercises between the two forces are planned, for example, "Blue Flag" 2021, in which advanced four and half generation French Rafale aircraft will participate as well as the first international RPAV (Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicle) training exercise in Israel. The strong partnership also comes into fruition in terms of knowledge-sharing in both flight training at the IAF's Flight School and in an increasingly relevant field - drone protection.
The cooperation between the forces has a central part in the IAF's force buildup, resource-utilization, and maximizes its abilities. "We strengthen our international partnerships, including with European countries and NATO members. Cooperation with France has significant strategic importance", emphasizes, Maj. Noam, Department Head in the IAF's International Coordination Unit. "Our goal is to strengthen cooperation, aid our allies however we can, enable operational freedom of action, and attend to mutual strategic interests".