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Air force jet crashes off Gaza coast

Pilot and navigator eject from F-16 fighter jet after engine fails, crew rescued from waves uninjured; F-15 and F-16s grounded

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

An Israeli Air Force F-16I jet plane crashed into the sea off the coast of the Gaza Coast during a training mission on Sunday afternoon.

The pilot and navigator succeeded in safely ejecting from the aircraft before it hit the water. They were later rescued by the Air Force’s 669 search and rescue unit and were airlifted to Tel Hashomer Hospital outside Tel Aviv where they underwent medical inspections. According to an Israel Radio report, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz and Israel Navy chief Maj. Gen. Ram Rothberg commanded the rescue operation from a navy craft near the scene.

The IDF Spokesperson Unit later uploaded a video of the rescue operation.

According to an IDF spokesperson, the airmen were in good condition, but the spokesperson provided no further details about the incident.

According to a Channel 2 report, the pilot and navigator were expected to be released from the hospital Sunday evening.

Air Force officials were looking into the cause of the crash, which occurred approximately 50 kilometers west of the Gaza Strip from a high altitude.

The aircraft was reportedly from the 107th Squadron and, after its Pratt & Whitney F100 engine malfunctioned, the crew were able to dispatch a mayday distress call back to base before ditching their plane.

The IAF grounded its Israeli-modified F-16I and F-15I fleet as a result of the crash, pending the completion of an investigation. Both types of aircraft use the engine that malfunctioned.

In October 2012, the IAF grounded its entire fleet of aircraft for a day following a number of near-miss incidents during training flights.

An Israeli F-16I crashed in 2010, killing the two pilots.

Israel purchased 50 F-16Is from the US in 2000 in a $ 2.5-billion deal, and the Lockheed Martin planes entered service in the IAF nine years ago. The aircraft is able to carry air-to-air heat-seeking missiles manufactured by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd. as well as US-made radar-guided missiles.

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