Warplanes: Some Gassy F-16Is Still Grounded


May 1,2008: All but seven of Israel's 63 F-16I fighters have been returned to service. About five weeks ago, Israel has halted training flights of its new F-16I fighters because formaldehyde was leaking into the cockpit and making pilots nauseous.

Formaldehyde can also cause cancer after prolonged exposure. Israel demanded that the U.S. manufacturer of the F16 find and fix the problem. That turned out to be difficult. There have been no other incidents like this, and over 4,000 F-16s are in use by 24 countries. The investigation is continuing. The problem may lie in modifications Israel made to the aircraft. That is being investigated as well, and the formaldehyde is probably from some new component. Formaldehyde is often a component of the "new car smell." Pilots also received cancer screening.

During the last five weeks, the aircraft were held ready for combat operations, just more numerous training flights were halted. The training flights are essential to maintain the superiority of Israeli pilots. The F-16I is the most capable versions of the F-16. Israel has been receiving two new F-16I fighter-bombers a month since early 2004, and will eventually receive 102 of them. Added to this will be another 125, as older F-16s are upgraded. This will take three or four years, at least.

The F-16I is a 24 ton, two seat fighter-bomber, and is probably the most capable F-16 model in service. It's basically a modified version of the F-16C/D Block 50/52, equipped with a more advanced radar (the APG-68X) and the ability to carry Israeli weapons like the Python 4 air-to-air missile and the Popeye 2 air-to-surface missile. Costing $45 million each, the F-16I has an excellent navigation system, which allows it to fly on the deck (a few hundred feet from the ground), without working the pilot to death. The aircraft can do this at night or in any weather. The F-16I can carry enough fuel to hit targets 1,600 kilometers away (meaning Iran is within range). The aircraft uses the latest short and long range air-to-air missiles, as well as smart bombs. Electronic countermeasures are carried, as is a powerful computer system, which records the details of each sortie in great detail. This is a big help for training. The F-16I is basically optimized to deliver smart bombs anywhere, despite dense air defenses. This further increases Israels military power versus its neighbors.




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