F-16 fighter jet squadrons have returned to training flights this week, a little over two months after being grounded due to an accident that saw two airmen parachute out of their aircraft over the Mediterranean Sea.
On July 7, a two-seater F- 16i on a training flight crashed in the sea some 50 kilometers off the coast of the Gaza Strip. The plane’s pilot, an IAF flight instructor, and navigator, who was being trained, safely ejected from the aircraft and parachuted to the sea before being rescued.
The F-16s have been put on a gradual program designed to ease them back into the intense training routine that the airmen are used to.
“It’s like an athlete who has to get back into shape,” said Maj. Dor (full name withheld), deputy commander of a flight squadron at the Ramon air base in the South, from which the first training flights to resume have been launched.
“Returning to flights is a complex process,” he said, speaking to the IAF’s official Hebrew website. “We’ve carried out refresher training sessions and updated our training program to get back into operational fitness.”
Initial training sessions have focused on the fundamental aspects of fighter jet flying, such as dog fights.
They will later simulate flying in complex arenas while deploying sophisticated guided weaponry. The training will also include midair refueling.
According to Maj. Roee, deputy squadron commander of a second unit at Ramon, skills improve from one training session to the next. He added that one of the main goals of training was getting the pilots to be able to handle an influx of aerial missions.
“It’s important to gradually get all of the air crew members back into shape – both the conscripted air personnel and the reserves,” he said.
The return to training flights has also seen fighter jet technicians return to their duties, which center on getting the jets ready for take-off in a short span of time.