IAF Commanders

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Eitan Ben Eliyahu

July 1996 - April 2000

Eitan Ben Eliyahu, the thirteenth Commander in Chief of the Israeli Air Force, was born in Jerusalem in 1944. He enlisted in the IDF in October 1962 and volunteered for pilot training, from which he graduated as a fighter pilot in November 1964. He completed an operational training course with the "Wasp" Squadron, and served there as an Ouragan jet pilot until August 1965, after which he trained to be a flying instructor at the IAF Flight School. He served as an instructor at the school until April 1967, and also helped establish the IAF's aerobatic team.

During the Six Day War which broke out in June 1967, he served as an Ouragan pilot. In December 1967 he transferred to flying the Mirage as part of the "1st Combat" Squadron. In September 1969 he transferred again, beginning his service in the "The One" Phantom Squadron, where he was appointed Second-in-Command B and Second-in-Command A.

In September 1973, he transferred to IAF Headquarters, as head of the Operations Planning Department. One month later, with the outbreak of the Yom Kippur war, he returned to the "The One Squadron, this time as Squadron Commander.

In January 1976, Ben Eliyahu was appointed head of the team for receiving the F-15, and in July 1976 he took command of the "Knights of the Orange Tail" Squadron, Israel's first F-15 squadron.

In June 1979, he was promoted to colonel and became head of the Weaponry Department in Air Force Headquarters. In 1982, he began studying for a bachelor's degree in Economics and Business Management at Bar-Ilan University, and on completion of his studies in July 1984 he was appointed commander of the Ramat David Airbase.

In 1986, he completed Harvard University's Advanced Management Program and in February 1987 was promoted to brigadier general, and appointed head of the Air Group. In 1989 he began to study for a master's degree in Strategy and International Relations, and in 1991 was appointed head of Air Force Headquarters.

Ben Eliyahu received the rank of major general in April 1995, and was appointed as Assistant Head of the Operations Branch at IDF headquarters. In July 1996 he was appointed Commander in Chief of the Israeli Air Force, taking over from Herzl Bodinger.

During his term as Commander in Chief, the Air Force received the F-15I ("Ra'am"), and the decision was made to acquire the F-16I ("Sufa"). This period also saw Israel's first female combat navigators graduate from pilot training, nearly five years after it had been opened to female candidates under Ben Eliyahu's predecessor, Herzl Bodinger.

Under Ben Eliyahu's command, the IAF also began to operate the Arrow ("Hetz") missile, and the first Israeli Astronaut, Ilan Ramon, began his training with NASA. Ben Eliyahu is a graduate of the USAF Air Combat School and shot down four enemy aircraft during his service.

In April 2000, Ben Eliyahu handed over command of the IAF to Dan Halutz.

Eitan Ben Eliyahu
Eitan Ben Eliyahu