Is it pressure on the government or a real, severe cut in the capabilities of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), including the airforce, to adapt it to the changing reality in the Middle East?
This was the big question raised yesterday after general details of the defence programme were released.
The IDF released the principles of its planned cuts for the next five years, against a background of reductions to the budget of the defence ministry.
According to the military, a number of air force squadrons will be axed, some immediately and others in the next 18 months.
The plan, which will soon be submitted for the government’s approval, is expected to save the IDF $2 billion during the next five years.
The programme is not just an axe to cut the budget; it is a reassessment of the changes in the region.
If some airforce squadrons are disbanded, the money saved will be invested in other capabilities.
There is no question that the defence budget can be trimmed, but the remaining funds should be used to tackle new threats.
The wars in the Middle East have changed. No more are there thousands of tanks moving towards Israeli borders, but instead there are ballistic missiles, long-range rockets, cruise missiles and cyber attacks on infrastructure.
The Merkava Mk IV main battle tanks will not be scrapped, but their numbers will be “trimmed”.
Changes to the airforce will be made. The question is how these will affect procurement plans for another squadron of F-35s, V-22 tiltrotor aircraft and new aerial tankers.
The government will have to approve the detailed programme and it can be said, with a great degree of certainty, that its execution will be according to the weekly or monthly threat assessment of Israeli intelligence.