Eight F-16C/D Baraks of 101sq and 105sq of the Heyl Ha’Avir (IAF, Israel Air Force), which were parked in their underground hangars at Hatzor airbase (Israel), were damaged in a heavy rainstorm last week.
Israel is known to have hangars that are positioned below the surface level. These hangars are named “Datak”. During heavy rainstorms over the Negev desert, the IAF neglected to move eight Barak’s from these types of hangars at the Hatzor airbase (Israel), which subsequently filled with up to 1.5 meters of water.
Three jets were seriously damaged in the incident, while five others were only slightly damaged. The IAF announced the planes are expected to return to service next week, after some costly repairs.
Besides repairing the damaged jets, the air force will inspect the drainage systems around the hangars, as well as the concrete walls that are there to keep away water from the nearby river.
According to Times of Israel, an Israeli Air Force officer acknowledged that the military made a mistake by not removing a number of fighter jets from their underground hangars during a heavy rainstorm last week.
According to the military, eight F-16 fighter jets were damaged when the hangars flooded at the Hatzor air base in southern Israel. The planes were expected to return to service in less than a week after costly repairs are made.
“It was a mistake not to empty the underground hangars,” the air force officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The military censor initially barred media outlets from reporting on the incident, drawing criticism that it was doing so not to prevent damage to national security but to cover up an embarrassing episode for the air force.
The flooding occurred as heavy rains lashed Israel on Thursday, causing widespread flooding in several cities. Authorities have faced criticism over inadequate drainage infrastructure do deal with the rains. At least seven people have been killed in floods so far this winter.
Channel 12 News reported that several mechanics needed to be rescued from the flooded hangars, with waters reaching more than one and a half meters (4.5 feet) in depth. The IDF would not immediately confirm that the report but said that no soldiers were injured in the flood.
The officer noted that adequate precautions had been taken at other airbases and that no other equipment was damaged in the storm.
“Until 5 a.m., the base was dry. From 5 a.m. to 5:30 a.m., approximately 50,000 cubic meters (13 million gallons) of water flooded the base,” the officer said.
The planes were kept in an underground hangar, known in Hebrew by the acronym datak, which flooded with the sudden gush of rainwater.
According to the officer, five planes were very lightly harmed by the floodwaters while the other three were more seriously damaged.
“The assessment is that in at most a week, they will all return to service,” the officer said.
An Israel Defense Forces spokesperson said the military did not yet know precisely how much it would cost to fix the planes. Initial estimates ranged from the millions to tens of millions of shekels.
The air force officer said an initial investigation of the mistake had been completed and that “lessons were learned.”
The officer added that the flooding “did not harm the operational ability of the air force.”
On Sunday, all runways were cleared and flights at the Hatzor air base returned to normal, the officer said.
The military said staff on the air force base pumped the rainwater out of the hangars over the weekend.
Areas of Israel have experienced one of the wettest winters on record, with some cities repeatedly deluged in the downpours.