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Mon, Dec 29, 2003

Israeli Flight Cadets Graduate At Historic Military Museum

History In Their Midst

Three Israeli Air Force cadets -- all women -- will earn their wings at the winter pilots' graduation ceremony Thursday. One is set to become a combat jet weapons systems engineer (navigator) and two are headed for helicopter squadrons.

In the 149th graduating pilots' course, 56 percent are from cities, 19% from communal villages, 15% from moshavim, and 10% from kibbutzim. Six percent are religiously observant. Some 58% are from the center of the country, 34% are from the North, and 8% are from the south. A majority (58%) belonged to youth movements, and 27% of those belonged to the Scouts.

Twelve percent of the graduates served in other units before transferring to the pilots course. Fifteen percent have a family member who is or was a pilot, about the same as in previous years. Eighty-six percent went to academic high school and every cadet took matriculation exams. Interestingly, just 17% of the new pilots' mothers are teachers, whereas in past years this figure was closer to 50%. Only 13% have an engineer father, down from 20% last year. At least 56% have two siblings or more.

The matriculation takes place at the Beersheba Israeli Air Force Museum on the grounds of Hatzerim Air Force Base. They graduate amid a collection of Israeli aircraft dating back to the Jewish state's war for independence in 1949.

The collection includes Spitfires, a Meteor, a P-51D Mustang, an Ouragon, a Mystere, a Magister, a Super Mystere, a Mirage III, and other relics of the country's military aviation heritage. In all, there are about 80 aircraft on display, some of them one-of-a-kind.

Also a large collection of anti-aircraft guns, missiles and radars including an extensive collection of Soviet systems captured from the Arabs.

In literature sent to prospective visitors, the Israeli government issues a warning: "Hatzerim is a real IAF base (look overhead to see more planes) and Israel is at war. DO NOT wander into unauthorized areas."

Special thanks to ANN Correspondent Dave Bender in Jerusalem

FMI: www.iaf.org.il/iaf/doa_iis.dll/Serve/level/English

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