Air Force admits mistake after eight fighter jets 'drown'

The F-16s were damaged when their underground hangars flooded following intense rainfall in southern Israel.

F-16 planes on the runway during the Blue Flag drill (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
F-16 planes on the runway during the Blue Flag drill
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The Israel Air Force has admitted its mistake for not moving all fighter jets from underground hangars ahead of intense rainfall last week, causing several F-16s to be damaged.
According to a senior IAF officer, 50 million liters of rain fell on Hatzor Airbase in the South from 5 a.m.-5:30 a.m. last Thursday, flooding aircraft runways and two underground hangars.
The water levels reached 1.5 meters inside the hangars, and several mechanics needed to be rescued, Channel 12 reported.
“At 5:00 a.m. on Thursday morning the base was dry, but within half an hour the base was flooded with 50 million liters of water,” the officer said. “The water was causing even concrete walls to crumble.”
Eight F-16 Sufa fighter jets were damaged by the rain – five of them with minor damage and three with significant damage, he said.
“We were wrong to not evacuate those hangars,” he said. “It was a mistake, and we will investigate the incident and learn lessons to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The base and the squadron returned to operational duty on Sunday, the IAF said. Every damaged plane is expected to be repaired and return to operational duty by next week.
Despite damaging the planes, the flooding “did not harm the operational ability of the air force,” the officer said.
While the damage caused to the aircraft was initially estimated in the tens of millions of shekels, he said it was less than that.
Israel was hit by two severe and deadly winter storms last week that caused major flooding across the country. At least six people died, including a young couple who drowned in an elevator that had short-circuited in Tel Aviv. Several others lost their lives when their cars were swept away by storm waters in the North and South
The hangar is located next to two streams, and last weekend’s heavy rainfall caused them to overflow. While the base has been flooded twice before, in 2013 and 2015, the officer said the rain “flooded the base like we’ve never experienced in the past.”
The IAF prepared for the storm on bases across the country, prioritizing human life as well as equipment, aircraft and operational infrastructure, he said.
After several days of trying to censor the news, the IAF acknowledged on Sunday evening that several of the planes had been damaged. Two unconfirmed photographs from the scene showed a F-16 fighter jet in a flooded hangar.