The Israeli Air Force has stated that damage to some of its warplanes, stationed at an airbase in country’s south and pounded by stormy weather earlier this month, proved to be more serious than was previously expected.
A senior Air Force spokesperson told a news briefing on Tuesday that five of the eight damaged F-16 fighter jets will be returned to service in the next few days, while three more will be repaired in “two to three months”.
An F-16 jet in a flooded hangar at Hatzor Airbase in Israel near Ashdod.— Scott's Humor (@ScottsHumor) January 14, 2020
Eight F-16 fighter jets were damaged during the flood. the entire base was flooded with water in such intensity that concrete walls broke under the flood's strength. pic.twitter.com/Ov83sbu5pO
They added that the Hatzor Airbase was back in operation, with a squadron where the warplanes were damaged already taking part in the force’s regular duty roster.
The spokesperson declined to clarify on the exact number of the F-16s deployed in the base.
The comments come after the Haaretz newspaper cited an unnamed Israeli military source as saying last week that “it was a mistake not to empty the underground hangars” during a heavy rainstorm that rode roughshod over the airbase earlier this month.
The sources added that an initial investigation of the mistake had been wrapped up and that “lessons were learned”.
An Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson, in turn, pointed out that the IDF has yet to reveal how much it would cost to repair the warplanes, with initial estimates amounting to millions or even tens of millions of shekels. 10 million shekels are currently tantamount to about 2.8 million dollars.
The airbase incident took place as heavy rains resulted in widespread flooding in several Israel cities, with at least seven people reportedly killed by the disaster.
As far as the Hatzor Airbase is concerned, the IDF confirmed that there were no victims in the flooding, even though Israel’s Channel 12 news outlet earlier reported that an array of mechanics remained in the flooded hangars, where water levels stood at more than 1.5 metres (4.5 feet) in depth.