October 4, 2013:
All Israeli F-16I fighters were allowed to resume flight operations on September 17th. Last July, for the first time since the Israeli F-16I was introduced in 1998, one suffered an engine failure and crashed. The two man crew ejected and were picked up off the coast. The air force temporarily grounded all its F-16s and F-15s until it could be determined that there was not some common problem at fault. The grounded F-16Is and F-15Is were held ready for combat operations, and it was just the more numerous training flights that were halted. The training flights are essential to maintain the superiority of Israeli pilots.
The F-16I has been very reliable but there have been some other groundings. In March, 2008, most of Israel's 63 F-16Is had training flights halted for two months because formaldehyde was leaking into the cockpits of some F-16Is and making pilots nauseous. Formaldehyde can also cause cancer after prolonged exposure. The problem turned out to be modifications Israel made to the aircraft. Formaldehyde is often a component of the "new car smell." Pilots also received cancer screening and nothing was found. Israel now has a hundred F-16Is and 260 older model F-16s.
The F-16I is a 24 ton, 2 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 hundred meters or so above 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 Israel’s military power versus its neighbors.