In January, several IAF “Barak” (F-16C/D) aircraft were damaged during a flood in Hatzor AFB. The IAF’s AMU (Aerial Maintenance Unit) restored several aircraft that required a significant maintenance process in both Hatzor and Tel Nof AFB’s. “The unit’s service members saw an aircraft submerged in water and believed it’ll return to the air, despite outside opinion claiming it was irreparable”
At the beginning of January, several IAF "Barak" (F-16C/D) fighter jets were damaged during a flood in Hatzor AFB. After the incident, Col. M, commander of the IAF's AMU (Aerial Maintenance Unit), received a phone call from Brig. Gen. Shimon Tsentsiper, Head of the Materiel Directorate. "The call focused on one major question - can the AMU restore the aircraft damaged in the incident within a short timeframe", opened Col. M. "I knew the AMU's service members will provide the solution since I'm aware of the unit's capabilities and previous performance".
For the First Time
The AMU, located in Tel Nof AFB, executes the IAF's most intricate maintenance missions, that could not be carried out in any one of the IAF's bases. The unit's solution to the aircraft restoration mission divided into two parts - "First and foremost, we provided a solution to aircraft who were damaged at a low to medium level. We repaired these aircraft in Hatzor AFB and they were back in the air after a short period", explained Col. M.
"During the flooding incident, some of the aircraft were severely damaged. We understood that they'll require more thorough treatment, and so we started a process to transfer them to the unit's HQ in Tel Nof AFB. Simultaneously, our people worked in Hatzor AFB", he shared.
This is the first time the AMU faced the mission of restoring "Barak" aircraft who were damaged by a flood. "Flood damages have a significant impact over the aircraft's electrical and mechanical systems", mentioned Col. M. "Water compounds and additional mixes cause corrosion, which harms metals and leads to substantial damages. The first and main challenge was cleaning the aircraft to stop the development of corrosion in the aircraft's structure and additional parts", continued Col. M.
"We conducted damage control to understand the complexity of damages as well as figure out how to execute an optimal maintenance process. The AMU specializes in the restoration and renovation of aircraft structures. In this case, we faced a new challenge - we had to repair other parts of the aircraft and its electrical systems that were water damaged. Many soldiers worked around the clock to finalize the process and make the aircraft usable as fast as possible".
Vision, Determination, and Professionalism
The AMU has different departments that execute different missions. "The Material Department can guide on how to clean the aircraft without damaging its structure. The Renovation Department knows how to renovate and restore the damaged parts of the aircraft, and the Engineering Department can provide a solution for parts who were completely damaged. The Aircraft Department will bring the "Barak" fighter jets to their take-off position", described Col. M.
"The manufacturer did not define how to treat aircraft who were damaged by floods. Together with the IAF's HQ, we had to understand what was the right process for every aircraft. We created a series of maintenance processes for each aircraft, based on the unit's comprehensive knowledge and experience", he explained. "With the initiative and courage of our people, we succeeded in creating a plan that treats each aircraft on multiple levels. First, we had to figure out which spare parts we had and what parts we needed to restore. We then checked every single wire and ensured it was completely dry, undamaged, and working properly, to prevent a large explosion or short circuit when powering the aircraft and examining its systems".
The aircraft that reached the AMU were returned to the squadron after having executed a test flight in the IAF's "Manat" (Flight Testing Center) Squadron. Col. M. tells us about three crucial components that led to the successful restoration of the aircraft. "The first is vision - The unit's service members saw an aircraft submerged in water and believed it'll return to the air, despite outside opinion claiming it was irreparable. Other countries may have not committed to executing such a complex restoration process", emphasized Col. M.
"The second component is perseverance - this renovation mission is long-term. You don't see results after a few days. It's a kind of mission that you sometimes take steps back in", continued Col. M. "Above all, the main component is professionalism - vision and perseverance don't mean much if we don't go in the right direction. The professional ability of service members, and the combination of existing and newfound knowledge, led us throughout the mission. In my eyes, that's the strength of the AMU".
"There's No Challenge We Can't Face"
"I'm completing three years as commander of the unit. Seeing the personnel completely committed to the effort, when at the end of the line, these aircraft take-off for operational missions, is very exciting to see", shared Col. M. "The process of returning the "Barak" fighter jets to operational use strengthens the squadron's sense of capability. There's no challenge we can't face. It fills me with a huge sense of pride - in the people, in the knowledge they possess, and mostly in their motivation and emotional connection to the missions. If sometime in the future somebody will want to copy the AMU to somewhere else, he'll need to understand the unit is its people. They're the ones who keep the magic in the air and provide full support for the IAF to execute its missions."