Israel Air Force Investigation Into F-16 Crash Blames Pilot Error

Report states 'air crew failed to adequately defend itself' after coming under fire from Syrian air defenses

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
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The remains of the F-16 that crashed after it was shot by Syrian air defenses, February 10, 2018.
The remains of the F-16 that crashed after it was shot by Syrian air defenses, February 10, 2018.Credit: rami shlosh
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

An Israel Air Force investigation determined that pilot error was the reason an F-16 crashed after it was shot by Syrian air defenses on February 10. The investigation’s results were submitted to Israeli army chief Gadi Eisenkot on Sunday.

“The air crew failed to adequately defend itself. Its actions did not match the needed order of priorities to address the missile threat it faced,” the report said.

The IAF also confirmed some of the Syrian anti-aircraft missiles reached central Israel, north of the Gush Dan area.

The investigation involved the whole series of events that occurred on that day: The interception of an Iranian drone in Israeli airspace, the airstrike on the drone command and control center deep in Syrian territory, the ejection of the pilots from the F-16 after it was hit and the retaliatory strike on the Syrian air defense missile batteries that fired the anti-aircraft missiles at IAF planes.

The report noted that the pilots who were on a mission to destroy the drone command and control center were exposed and aware that missiles could be fired at them.

Investigators determined that the mission planning was adequate, as was the intelligence the operation was based on, which led to the elimination of the selected targets. The F-16’s warning systems also functioned properly.

While faulting errors by the air crew, the investigation determined that their decision to abandon the plane was correct and that it saved their lives.

The anti-aircraft missile that struck the F-16 was a relatively old model, the SA-5, which should not have been able to down the IAF’s F-16.

“The road to operational accomplishments often requires us to take risks,” Eisenkot said at the meeting with top IAF officers, during which he received the results of the investigation. “My expectation from every combat service member is to see the fate of the mission on his shoulders during the mission.”

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