JERUSALEM (JTA) — The pilots of an Israeli F-16 fighter plane that crashed after being hit with shrapnel from Syrian anti-aircraft missiles failed to take appropriate evasive action, leading to the crash, an Israeli Air Force investigation determined.
The results of the investigation were sent on Sunday to the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot.
The investigation also found that the pilots’ decision to eject from the plane was appropriate and saved their lives. One of the pilots was seriously injured, required emergency surgery and remained on a respirator for several days. He left the Rambam Heath Care Campus in Haifa last week. The other pilot was lightly injured.
Their plane and several other aircraft were heading back into Israel early on Feb. 11 after striking an Iranian command center that had launched an unmanned aircraft, or drone, into Israel. The drone was shot down and captured, and Israeli warplanes went in pursuit of the command center that operated the drone and other Iranian and Syrian targets in southern Syria.
The investigation also determined that the preliminary planning for the operation and the intelligence was sufficient. The F-16 warning systems also functioned properly.
“Quite often, operational activities demand of us to take risks,” Eisenkot said in a statement. “I expect each fighter to understand the great weight on his shoulders during his missions.”