Israeli Fighter Pilot Killed While Abandoning F-16 Upon Return From Airstrike in Gaza

It's still unclear why pilot and navigator, who was likely injured, decided to abandon their F-16 when preparing to land at the Air Force base in the Negev.

An Israel Air Force F-16I fighter jet during a training exercise in Israel, in 2013.
Ilan Assayag

An Israeli Air Force pilot was killed Wednesday as he ejected from his F-16I fighter jet after returning from an airstrike mission in the Gaza Strip.

The Israel Air Force struck three Hamas sites in the northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday, after a rocket fired from Gaza exploded in the Israeli border city of Sderot.

The pilot who was killed was identified as Maj. Ohad Cohen Nov, 34, who recently assumed the position of squadron deputy commander. He was survived by his pregnant wife and daughter, as well as his parents and two sisters.

Maj. Ohad Cohen Nov.
IDF Spokesperson's Unit

A navigator who was also in the aircraft successfully ejected and escaped the incident unharmed.

It was initially unclear why the jet's crew decided to abandon the aircraft as they were already in the landing stages over the Ramon Air Force base.

The F-16I burst into flames following the ejection of the crew. 

Air Force commander Major General Amir Eshel appointed a team of investigators to determine the details of the incident.

The aircraft, know as the "Sufa" ("Storm") in Hebrew, is the most advanced aircraft currently in service in the Israeli Air Force. The first of these aircraft arrived in Israel in February, 2004 and have been in service ongoingly ever since.

The slightly altered Israeli version of the American-built F-16 has crashed three times during its use by the Israeli Air Force.

During the Second Lebanon War of 2006, a fully-armed F-16I en route to Lebanon for operational activity crashed on the runway when one of its tires exploded during takeoff. The crew all escaped unharmed, but the plane was badly damaged.

In 2010, an F-16I crashed near Mitzpeh Ramon while leading three other planes on a nighttime exercise. In that case, both crew members – Maj. Amichai Itkes and Maj. Immanuel Levy – were killed.

Finally, three years ago, an F-16I crashed during a training flight about 40 miles off the coast of the Gaza Strip. Both crew members escaped unhurt. They later reported that they had experienced an engine failure, and when they were unable to solve the problem, they decided to abandon the plane over the sea.