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Knesset member Eliezer "Cheetah" Cohen:'Former Air Force Commander Dan Halutz Is Right Commander At Right Time For IDF'

'General Halutz Will Apply IAF Star Wars Technology to Ground Forces'

'Look For New Chief Of Staff To Build Smaller, Faster Ground Units With Greater Fire-Power'

These are some of the remarks of Knesset Member Eliezer 'Cheetah' Cohen, a retired IAF combat pilot who served with the Air Force Commander who has been named new IDF Chief Of Staff. Colonel Cohen says Halutz was not only a crack fighter pilot who flew the Phantom and F-16, he is known in the IAF as a brilliant planner.

In this revealing interview with David Essing, Cohen also talks about how the IAF has become second to none in the air.

David Essing: Knesset Member Eliezer "Cheetah" Cohen, as a former pilot in the IAF, this must be a very happy day for you and your fellow pilots.

Eliezer Cohen: Yes in deed, for three main reasons and thousands of other reasons. One is Dan Halutz is not only suitable, he is the general at the right time, the right commander at the right time, to be the commander of our army, and especially for renovating the army, the army should be much smaller, much faster, and with bigger fire-power, and the person to make it happen is Dan Halutz.

David Essing: You believe he will take the Israeli Air Force model and try to apply it to the ground forces?

Eliezer Cohen: Absolutely, not only the IAF, all the technologies that are running in between our fingers today, the Star War capability will come into reality. It is happening in the IAF, why not in the army? Not only computerizing, all the real time information, all the real time intelligence, all the command and communications system, he will bring it to happen in the army. From the days of Moshe Dayan in the fifties, Moshe Dayan took the army from the situation of War of Independence, with a lot of soldiers from many armies of World War II, a lot of people who came from Russia, from Poland and from South Africa, a collection of veterans and old soldiers, and he put upon the new paratroopers to be the center of the army. This is what Moshe Dayan did. From Moshe Dayan's days, from the fifties, nothing happened in the configuration of the army and the way of running it, until Mota Gur. Mota Gur, after the Yom-Kippur War, enlarged the army, but he enlarged it in the same way. He put more and more "Ugdot", divisions. Dan will make it smaller, smarter and faster army.

David Essing: During your career, and you were a squadron commander, did you ever come in contact with Dan Halutz?

Eliezer Cohen: Very much, I worked with him for two years in every day matters. In the War of Attrition, I was commanding the special operations of the air force and he was a young officer who did wonderful work in the Israel Air Force staff, as a planner of the attacking of the fighter aircraft and he was a very good and brilliant officer at the time. I'm sure that these days he's the most suitable to be the Chief of Staff.

David Essing: Why do you think that he has been made Chief of Staff, because let's face it, there were also brilliant commanders like Ezer Weitzman and David Ivri who were commanders of the air force, became deputy chiefs of stuff, but never became the IDF's top soldier?

Eliezer Cohen: That's a good one. At the time, ten, fifteen and twenty years ago, nobody saw the need. Today everybody sees the need. Every child sits in Israel and on the TV news he sees how the attack helicopters shoot a very small missile to hit a terrorist leader, and you see it in every day’s news. Ten to Twenty years ago, nobody understood really the need. By the way I understood it thirty years ago, I sat with General Beni Peled, the commander of the Air Force, and we talked about it, we said that we should be smaller, we should be smarter, we should be faster with bigger fire ability. We talked about it in 85', but General Peled achieved real time intelligence, he was the general to implement it in the IAF, and Dan Halutz, I hope, will implement the very fast and small army.

David Essing: Today the Israel Air Force is considered to be second to none, perhaps the best air force in the world. How has this been achieved, how was the training done?

Israel Air Force

Eliezer Cohen: I wrote my book, in Hebrew it's "Hashamaim Einam Hagvul", in English it’s "Israel's Best Defense is the Air Force", and I did research of eight years about the book, and I can tell you that again, there are many reasons but two main ones. The first is de-briefing. We came from the best operation, we did a lot of good things, but after doing it, we sat and de-briefed for hours how we can do it better. The de-briefing in the Israeli air force is so meticulous, so taken care of, that you won't believe it. I came from a very successful operation that I led in the air, at two o'clock in the morning, and the chief of stuff and everybody were highly satisfied and I sat with my pilots until two o'clock in the afternoon for nine hours of de-briefing, how we can do it better, how we can improve the maintenance, how we can improve the intelligence, and we did it better in the next time. This is one reason. The other reason is the commanders. The commanders of the Israeli air force were the right persons in the right time, like Ezer Weitzman, Dan Tolkowski, every one of them has made a big change and a big success in the air force at the time. For those two main reasons the air force became very good. The third element is the pilots, the country is giving the best boys to the air force, and if you take the good core of the good Israelis and put them in a F-16 and F-15, these are the results.

David Essing: General Dan Halutz once said himself that the air force looks for the eighteen year olds who are finishing high schools, eighteen year olds who can be in control of six or seven different computer systems at the same time.

Eliezer Cohen: Unbelievable! You should see it happening, he's right! Whenever I go there and I see this in action it's unbelievable, top technology at work.

David Essing: And this is what Israel is preparing now for any eventuality, whether it comes from Iran or any threat from beyond the horizon?

Eliezer Cohen: The answer is short, yes.

David Essing

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