Some of the advanced fighter jets damaged by flooding two weeks ago will remain out of service for several months, the Israeli Air Force said Tuesday.
Heavy rainstorms earlier this month caused tens of millions of shekels in damage to fighter jets and maintenance equipment at an army base in southern Israel, flooding hangars and repair workshops. Immediately after the storm, the air force had said it expected all the damaged planes to be back in service within a few days.
A senior air force officer told a press briefing that five of the affected F-16 jets will in fact be returned to service in another few days. Three other planes, though, were more badly damaged, and restoring them to functionality will take “two to three months.” He reiterated that the air force erred when it decided against immediately removing the planes from the two underground hangars despite the storms.
The commander of the air force, Maj. Gen. Amiram Norkin, has appointed a panel of experts headed by a lieutenant colonel to investigate the incident. The committee’s final report will be submitted to Norkin in about two months.
The air force said the base is back in operation, and that even the squadron whose planes were damaged has resumed taking part in the force’s regular duty roster. But the officer stressed that safety is the main consideration in when the remaining planes return to service. “We won’t take any risks,” he said.