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Israeli investigation blames aircrew of downed F-16

27 February 2018

The shooting down of an Israeli Air Force (IAF) F-16I fighter jet by a Syrian surface-to-air missile on 10 February was the result human error, an IAF investigation has found.

Investigators examine the wreckage of the F-16I that crashed near Harduf in northern Israel after being hit by a Syrian surface-to-air missile on 10 February. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)Investigators examine the wreckage of the F-16I that crashed near Harduf in northern Israel after being hit by a Syrian surface-to-air missile on 10 February. (Jack Guez/AFP/Getty Images)

The investigation looked into the events leading up to the SAM strike on the F-16I, which was one of the eight aircraft that attacked an Iranian mobile unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) control station at Tiyas Air Base in central Syria. The Israeli strike came in response to an Iranian UAV intrusion into Israeli airspace earlier that day.

The IAF quoted Chief of Air Staff Brigadier General Tomer Bar as saying that Syrian air defence systems launched 27 SAMs at the Israeli aircraft. He described this number as “irregular” even though Syria was expected to launch missiles.

Nevertheless, the investigation found that “the intelligence provided to the mission planners and the squadrons was adequate in order to complete the mission,” according to a summary of its findings released by the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF’s) Spokesperson Unit on 25 February.

The F-16I was hit by fragments from a SAM when it was inside Israeli airspace, seriously injuring the pilot and slightly injuring the navigator, who both ejected, leaving their aircraft to crash near Harduf in northern Israel. The investigation found that the aircrew’s decision to eject had been correct.

It is also found that the downed F-16I’s self-defence systems operated correctly and provided alerts to the pilot and navigator.

However, the “crew made a professional error by choosing to complete the mission and not defend themselves sufficiently”, according to the summary of the investigation. “Their actions did not correlate with standard procedure while under enemy fire,” it added without providing further details.

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