Soldier accused of purposely damaging F-16s

An Israeli Air Force technician removed key aircraft parts to get back at his overbearing commander

An Israeli F-16 of the 117th Squadron takes off at Ramat David Airbase. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)
An Israeli F-16 of the 117th Squadron takes off at Ramat David Airbase. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

An Israeli Air Force technician was charged Wednesday with deliberately tampering with two F-16 planes at the Ramat David base on October 27. The damage incurred to the planes, had it gone undetected, was liable to cause the planes to crash. The soldier confessed in the course of an interrogation and claimed he had done it to get back at his commander for giving him too much work.

The soldier was charged with undermining state security and overstepping his authority as well as two counts of destruction of property.

According to the charges, the soldier was in the midst of a routine inspection at the Ramat David air base, southeast of Haifa, when he dropped a rod, damaging the lock-down mechanism near the plane’s wheels. The soldier reportedly attempted to fix his mistake and straighten the switch and upon realizing he could not, wrenched it out completely. He did not report his error to his superiors and later removed a similar mechanism from a different F-16 aircraft.

Last week, a complaint was filed against the soldier for intentionally damaging the planes and he was subsequently arrested. Flights were grounded for the rest of the day and all aircraft were subject to thorough inspection. The repair costs for the two damaged planes are estimated at tens of thousands of dollars.

Following a request from the soldier’s attorney for more time to investigate, the charges were not filed for a week after the soldier’s arrest, Maariv reported.

“This is a case of a regular soldier who broke [from the pressure of] his superior’s demands,” Idan Dvir, the soldier’s attorney said. “The offenses attributed to my client in the indictment do not match the actions to which he pleaded.”

Wednesday afternoon, hours after the complaints were filed, two commanders at the Ramat David base stated that they did not think the soldier was aware of the consequences of his actions.

“My impression is that the soldier did not know what he was damaging. In my opinion he couldn’t tell if it was a part that could impair the safety of the planes,” the base commander said in a Channel 2 report. “With that, the damage to the aircraft was likely to put lives in danger.”

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