The downing of the Israeli F-16 jet in on February 10 by a Syrian anti-aircraft missile was due to an operational mistake on the part of the pilots, the IDF announced Sunday.
“The professional team erred when it did not defend itself as required. Their actions were not in line with the required order of priorities when facing a missile threat,” the investigation determined.
The events of February 10 began in the early morning hours when an Iranian drone infiltrated Israel. An IAF helicopter shot it down, while fighter jets were scrambled to attack 12 Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria in retaliation. On their way back to base, the Israeli planes came under Syrian anti-aircraft fire, with one missile exploding near one of the planes and bringing it down.
The pilot and navigator were able to bail out of the plane before it crashed near Kibbutz Harduf. The pilot was seriously injured, while the navigator was only lightly hurt. Both have since been discharged from the hospital.
During the operation, a total of 27 Syrian anti-aircraft missiles were fired at Israeli jets and one locked onto a second plane in the formation, but unlike the first jet that was hit, the other planes were able to evade the missile.
IDF Chief of the General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eizenkot visited the Ramon Air Force Base Sunday morning, where he was a presented with the full investigation of the event, which dealt with the entire sequence of the events of the day.
Eisenkot, determined that the advanced planning for the operation was done properly, and the intelligence for the mission was satisfactory, leading to the successful destruction of the targets, which were marked prior to the retaliatory strike.
The warning systems in the F-16 that was hit were found to be in order and alerted the pilot and navigator of the threat on time. The seven other planes that went out on the bombing mission were all able to defend themselves from enemy missiles and completed their tasks successfully.
Despite this, the downed F-16’s team failed to properly defend themselves from the anti-aircraft missile.
The pilot and navigator failed to take heed of the SA-5 missile, which locked onto their plane. The Israel Air Force determined that to be a professional mistake.
Nevertheless, the investigation concluded that the pilot and navigator’s decision to abandon the plane after it was the right one.