IAF F-15s refueling midflight 390 (R).
(photo credit: Baz Ratner / Reuters)
A series of malfunctions led the Israel Air Force over the weekend to suspend midair refueling exercises as well as training flights for its fleet of older-model F-16s.
On Friday, during a routine midair training flight, the hose disconnected from an F-16I - the IAF's most-advanced combat aircraft - causing light damage. The IAF decided to suspend the exercise and to land both the F-16 and the Boeing 707 refueling tanker.
Midair refueling is considered a critical capability for the IAF as it faces long-range missions, including a possible strike against Iran's nuclear facilities.
The midair refueling malfunction came after IAF commander Maj.-Gen. Amir Eshel decided earlier in July to ground the force's fleet of F-16 C/Ds, known as Barak in the military.
The decision was made after suspicions arose that the heavy heat was causing damage to the aircraft's single engine.
Last year, the IAF began an upgrade program for its Barak F-16s including the installation of new avionics and a new mission-debriefing system. Aimed at increasing the aircraft’s lifespan, the IAF has also decided to upgrade the F-16s flight-control system as well as its central display unit and the aircraft have also been fitted with new high-resolution screens.
Pilots of the Barak aircraft are also now equipped with Elbit’s display and sight helmet system, which enables pilots to aim their weapons simply by looking at their targets.