TEL AVIV (Sep. 27)
Maj. Gen. Avihu Bin-Nun, a Harvard-educated flying ace credited with downing a Soviet-piloted MIG over Egypt 17 years ago, took command of the Israel Air Force Tuesday in ceremonies at an Air Force base in southern Israel.
He succeeded Maj. Gen. Amos Lapidot who is retiring after 34 years in the military, the last five as Air Force commander. Bin-Nun, 48, married with five children, was born in Israel. He received a bachelor’s degree from Tel Aviv University and a master’s degree in business administration from Harvard. He also attended courses at the U.S. Air Force senior staff college.
Bin-Nun’s encounter with a Soviet-built MIG flown by a Russian pilot occurred over the Suez Canal in 1970, during the war of attrition with Egypt. Altogether, four Soviet-flown MIGs were shot down by Israeli fighter pilots at the time.
Bin-Nun takes command of the Air Force at a time of stringent budget cuts for the entire Israel Defense Force, including the government’s recent cancellation of the Lavi fighterplane project for economic reasons.
Bin-Nun himself opposed the Lavi, arguing that it absorbed funds needed for other vital weapons systems. He told Israel Radio Tuesday that the Air Force is a “quality service” and would remain such, even without the Lavi. But it will have to re-work its long-term plans, update its training program and plan new weapons systems and combat methods, he said.