Israeli F-16s Back in Service

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The Israel Air Force fleet of F-16 fighter jets, the backbone of its force, have been returned to service, the IAF stated on its website.

Three months ago, two F-16s were grounded after an engine malfunction caused pilots to make emergency landings at an air force base near Eilat.

After the source of the problem was identified, the IAF grounded most of the F-16 fleet from training exercises, though they remained on standby alert at all times.

The problem arose when heat caused pieces of the coating on the air intake inlets to peel off and interfere with engine function. The IAF decided to inspect most of the F-16 fleet to replace the peeled coating.

Squadron mechanic crews worked 24-hour shifts stripping down the old coatings and replacing them with new, more durable coatings.

"The challenge was to complete the process as quickly as possible so as many airplanes were available for training as possible," IAF commander Maj. Shlomi Palanitski said.

"Airbases have coped with the crisis by continuing their training as best they could. We focused on doing everything in the safest way possible," he added.

The fleet has been returned "to the skies with full operational capability, including strikes, sorties, training flights and air-to-air simulations," the IAF stated in the post.

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