Water-logged Israeli F-16s brought back from dead, ready for action

After months of repairs, water-damaged F-16s airworthy once again.

By Lauren Marcus, World Israel News

On Monday, four F-16 fighter jets returned to Hatzor Air Force base in southern Israel, flying once again five months after a freak storm in January left the jets partially submerged in water.

A stream near Hatzor Air Force base overflowed during the storm, leading to 50 million liters of water pouring into the base in less than 30 minutes.

“The water was up to the wings [of the planes],” said the squadron’s commander, G, to Kan News.

Hatzor Air Force base is the home of the legendary 101st Squadron, also known as the First Fighter Squadron, Israel’s original fighter jet division. The squadron was established six days after the Jewish state declared independence in 1948.

Eight F-16 fighter jets were damaged in the storm, with repairs estimated at over 30 million shekels.

IAF Chief Amikan Norkin immediately commissioned an internal investigation. After several months, military officials released a report criticizing the 101st Squadron’s commanders.

The report said the commanders had been warned about the severity of the storm, and the potential for damage was enough to warrant moving the planes out of their hangars to a different location, in order to prevent damage.

F-16s

One of the flooded F-16s at the Hazor airbase (Courtesy)

The report concluded that the commanders had been negligent by leaving the jets in place.

“It was a tough event, no doubt about it,” said G to Kan News. “We did preparations before the storm, walked around the base surveying potential risks, but I really never imagined that so much water could come that quickly.”

“I take full responsibility for the event, and for what I, or my team, handled incorrectly,” said G.

“But the main point is to figure out where we went wrong, learn from our mistakes, and move forward.”

Following months of repairs, the jets are now airworthy once again. The F-16s are used for a variety of missions throughout Israel and the region.

When Kan News asked G if he had any concerns flying the planes after the repairs, he laughed.

“Before the storm and after the storm, I trust the people who work on these planes. If they give me the ‘okay’, I trust that 100%.”