IDF mum on stolen F-16 engines

An Israel Defense Forces spokesman says military police are investigating the theft of F-16 engines from an IDF base and will pass along their findings to military legal officials when finished “if deemed necessary.

“The IDF prides itself on its level of professionalism, which obviously extends to security on military bases. Due to the ongoing investigation, we cannot comment further at this point,” Capt. Eytan Buchman told Defense Tech in an email.

The IDF for now is saying only parts were stolen, though Israeli media – from the Hebrew-language website Walla, which broke the story, to the Jerusalem Post and others, say several engines were taken. Buchman told Defense Tech that because of the ongoing investigation he could not say exactly what was taken.

The Israelis had an equally embarrassing theft about 18 months ago, when eight F-15 and F-16 engines were stolen from Tel Nof air base near Jerusalem.

Buchman also was not able to answer questions related to those thefts.

“I am still waiting from the military censor to see whether we can pass on information,” he said.

The IDF has played down the seriousness of the losses, noting the engines are older models. But American defense and military analysts have said there is still classified technology in the engines that a competing nation could uncover by taking them apart.

In both cases, the IDF has suggested the thefts were c carried out by people intending to sell the materials for scrap.

In July, the Israelis failed to stop thieves from infiltrating a Negev training base and fleeing with ammunition crates. The IDF says the crates were empty.

The Israelis said the perpetrators were Bedouin scrap metal thieves who made their getaway in SUVs.

According to a report on the web site for Arutz Sheva, Israel’s Channel 7, the Bedouins made off with live ammo in the crates. The station also claimed that the thieves toyed with the pursuing IDF troops by stopping the SUVs periodically to let them get near, then speeding off again. The Israelis ended the chase once the SUVs got beyond the perimeter.

The station also reported that four months earlier Israel’s Channel 2 broadcast video showing Bedouins driving onto the firing range of the same base in daylight, seizing metal scraps from blasted targets and heading out again. The Bedouins were said to have mocked the Israelis, certain that the troops would not fire on them and that they could outmaneuver the IDF tanks and vehicles.

About the Author

Bryant Jordan
Bryant Jordan is a reporter for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @BryantJordan.
  • BlackOwl18E

    Okay, who makes jets and needs new engine technology that isn’t China or Russia? I imagine that if China wanted F-16 engines they would find it much easier to just get them from Pakistan. The Russians should have engine technology that is already above that of the F-16 engine. That narrows it down a bit as whom these engines might be sold to. Educated guesses anyone?

    • Nick T.

      My best guess is Iran. Those… folks love our tech, and the fact that they’re still fielding F-14s is proof of that. They’ll probably put it in a scratch together copy, show us a flight demo, then post pictures of dozens of non-functioning mock-ups. Might even skip the first two parts. Point is, Irans ever action that I’ve seen has been to spite us. I don’t think this was very different.

      Either that or the engines on the J-31 don’t work so well.

      • blight_

        The Iranians also field some Russian equipment. The F-14’s they got were probably got an export-grade package.

      • PTPLauthor

        Yeah, Israel secretly whisked jet engines away to Iran because they’re bosom buddies in the diplomatic community…

        I’d bet money on Jordan. Israel had said that they’d sell Jordan F-16s if the US didn’t, and the jets Jordan ended up getting were old ADF Vipers, if I remember correctly, surely they’ll probably want newer motors like the Israelis have on the F-16Is.

    • PrometheusGoneWild

      Who says the engine is old technology?
      They continually upgrade parts with new materials and designs.
      Lots and lots of money go into making older engines more reliable and more efficient.
      These are not the same engines that went into the aircraft when it was first rolled out…..

      • Lance

        Most Iranian F-14s are modified to use Russian and Chinese AAMs now. Same as there F-4 and F-5s.

        • Jay

          You don’t know what you’re talking about. Only there Mig-28’s can. Yes that was on purpose.

          • jay


  • rich

    If it did happen as the press as presented and that is a big if, I wonder where they might be and who would want them? Seems to me China or Taiwan are logical destinations. Israel has done covert deals with China with technology derived from the US so it wouldn’t be a shocker to see that the Israeli government is back to its old tricks. God knows the Chinese need help with their high performance jet engine manufacturing.

  • matt

    They were so obviously given to the Chinese. They have crap engines and are desperate for US/EURO technology. This is pathetic, how many times are we going to let Israel screw us?

    • PolicyWonk

      Indeed. So much for being a “Trusted friend and ally…”.

  • JJ6000

    Hmmm, to be honest I just think it’s the bedouins…no high level international conspiracy here folks!

  • JJ6000

    Can someone explain to me why it is “obvious” that the chinese/Iranians etc etc were behind the theft of these engines?

    People here are so obsessed with the chinese/ Iranian threat that they would jump to such conclusions with no supporting evidence. In fact. precedent (previous thefts from military bases) would suggest that it is more likely that it was, in fact. bedouins that stole the engines

    People need to take a step back and assess the evidence at hand - nothing suggests that the Chinese or any other nation state stole these engines….nothing except peoples paranoia.

    • PrometheusGoneWild

      China is willing to pay a truckload of money for our technology and are very active in stealing it.
      That type of incentive can cause a lot of paperwork to look right as an engine gets driven off of base and is “lost”.
      It might not be the Chinese in this case.
      But just because we are paranoid does not mean we do not have reason not to be….

    • BCC

      You obviously never served in the US military in any capacity that would expose you to the actions of the Chinese or the Iranians. If you have, I hope it was not in the intelligence community.

  • A. Nonymous

    The real technology is in the manufacturing processes, not the actual components themselves (with the exception of the FADEC). The Russians know how to build an engine that has high performance, but they can’t make it last anywhere near as long as a RR, P&W, GE, or SNECMA engine will last without major maintenance.

  • Chops

    I get a kick out of “The IDF prides itself on it’s level of professionalism,which obviously extends itself to military bases”-let’s see-9 F15 engines the first time and however many this time-do they have a gold shipment I can guard for them-with their security I’d never get caught.

    • david

      Israel is the most overrated AF in the world.

      I knew a nugget on his first cruise flying F/A-18Cs. They had some ACM against the IAF while in the med. The IAF put up some of their best pilots. My friend the nugget scored a kill against an IAF general. He said the General was so pissed he told everyone the Hornet pilot cheated.

      • blight_

        They have excellent performance against their neighbors…says it all. But that’s all Israel needs, is to defeat their neighbors, even if they attack simultaneously.

        • SJE

          This gets away from the issue: can we trust Israel with our tech?

  • Lance

    Bet you some APs and some officer made a BIG error and some other friends in the IAF are covering it up for them.

  • Dan

    Here’s a new twist - Anakin needed some new engines for his podracer and they were obtained from a galaxy far, far away…..

  • Richard

    It doesn’t have necessarily to have been a country. It could be plain simple industrial espionage, by which it could even be an American or Israeli company. I can even go further and make up it being another F-16 user just trying to get their hands at components that are above export-grade level. But, at the end, most likely it’s simply someone that got the opportunity and thinks that they can sell them in the blackmarket to the highest bidder.

  • frank

    This sort of stuff happens when u don’t have an all professional force.

    My guess is the engines are either in China or on a boat on the way there.

    • Doramin

      That’s my first guess. Let’s go with Occam’s Razor.

      The engines were sold to the Chinese and the Israelis made up a story about them being “stolen”

      It’s either that or a bunch of Bedouin scrap thieves managed to sneak into an IDF airdrome and make off with tippy-top secret components.

      Take your pick.

  • Charlie

    “The IDF prides itself on it’s level of professionalism,which obviously extends itself to military bases”

    Hemingway once said if you tell Americans a lie enough times they will believe it.

    • yesjb

      In that case Hemingway must have been prescient about the 2008 and 2012 elections :-)

  • jamesb

    For the person who asked about why EVERYONE here believes a COUNTRY is behind this….

    WTF has the BALLS and MEANS to make WHOLE JET engines (Plural)


    Give me a break, huh?

    If I was the CIA and DIA I’d want to know what the heck is going on…..

    • Jay
  • Jay

    And that’s why North Korea has Mig-29’s and old Russian Mig-15’s, 17’s, 19’s, and 21’s. You’re right. They don’t know how to make long lasting engines.

    • blight_

      Indeed. Russia’s real problem is not reliable engines, it’s high-performance engines. Hell, it was a problem for the US as well for many years, and the gap opened up in the last few decades.

  • SJE

    The Bedouin story just makes the whole thing sound worse. Some guys come onto a military base and steal ammunition, and you stop chasing them when they reach the perimeter of the base? Do you think that this would have been acceptable in the USA, UK, Australia? How long before the car would be full of bullets?

    The IDF is willing and able to invade other countries to stop them getting weapon technology for use against Israelis, but if someone comes into a military base and steals weapons they won’t try to hard. This is so riduculous I cannot believe that they even used this as a reason.

  • Don_Bacon


    Jun 24, 2012
    Report: Venezuela supplied Iran with F-16 to prepare for possible strike

    Venezuela has transferred at least one F-16 fighter to Iran in an attempt to help it calibrate its air defenses, in preparation for a possible Israeli or U.S. strike on its nuclear facilities, reports Spanish newspaper ABC.

    • blight_

      Ah, Venezuela. Probably got their F-16’s before Hugo Chavez came to power.

  • TonyC

    Did anyone ever consider that this whole article may actually be miss information?
    It may be that the IDF or MOSAD is setting up a sting against an individual or group of individuals.

    • A. Nonymous

      Hard to believe some Bedouins could make off with a bunch of 20-foot-long, 4400-pound engines without someone noticing.

      • crackedlenses

        If Mossad dressed up as said Bedouins and told everyone to look the other way…..

  • Sean

    The Israel military is great compared to it’s neighbors. Not so great when compared to all professional militaries like the US, Britain, Australia and Canada.

    A military that depends on conscripts will always be weak compared to an all volunteer force. Fact.

    • blight_

      A nation that pushes conscripts through every so often can call them up when total war knocks and can double its size with a reasonably effective force.

      If AVF nations had to rapidly expand their militaries, they’d have to train millions of men from scratch.

    • SJE

      I don’t care. If we are going to be giving the IDF our better technology, they need to take care of it. As for comparisons: I bet that you would get shot trying to steal ammunition from the military of neighboring countries

  • Speedy

    Maybe they are using them to build some new super craft? Somthing from Macross etc?

    • blight_

      No protomatter here, just some old engines.

      • crackedlenses

        Ah, but that is what the Mossad wants you to believe, ;)……

  • Old19D

    I worked in Tabuk, KSA from 1995 thru 1998 with the US Army NET teams. As the Senior Bradley Trainer I participated in inventories of the 9th and 14th Brigades of the Royal Saudi Land Forces when Vinnel Corporation’s training contract was reduced in 1998. There were only 6 M2s, 4 M3s and 8 M1A2s missing. No questions were answered by questioning the Senior Officers(Royals) or the Jr Officers(Merchant Class), but about 40 of the very Jr enlisted(illiterate class) told us the vehicles,many test sets and the scoring computers from the largest CALFEX range the US military ever built were all shipped to Pakistan after all the Chinese officers and technicans visited for 2 weeks. The dates coincide with two weeks that all Americans(military or civilian) were confined to their compounds for security reasons.That did not make the Stars and Stripes.

    Two years ago I was invited back as a guest of the Northwest Provinces Commander.

  • Old19D

    almost all of the US supplied to KSA were non-functioning, after the American maintenance contracts ended.

  • jamesb

    So 19D is telling us this stuff goes on ALL the time?????

    • Old19D

      I’m telling you it happens very routinely with some of our so called “best allies”. We(Americans) are very good at pointing fingers at others. I’m pretty sure anything shipped to Pakistan ended up in China. When it happens to us we act all indignant. When we are flying Polish Mig-29s and Indian SU-30s in Nevada its just good intelligence. The Israeli engines that are missing are pretty conventional. The metallurgy of the components is what China needs.

  • duuude

    Ah, the F-16… an elegant weapon from a more civilized age…

  • Vernon Wegener

    If anyone still thinks they were stolen, read this.…

  • hfhfhhf

    There has been a lot of friction with the US and Israel. I think that’s just one motivation besides money. A sense that they were fissures in this relationship as far as loyalty is concerned. They need to find out who’s watch this happened and check all personnel bank accounts past and present. Cell phones and phone #s email etc. There has to be a trail of contacts as to who orchestrated and persons involved.

    • SJE

      It would not surprise me if some higher ups are involved, for political reasons. I cannot see exactly what this accomplishes, however. Then again, I don’t understand Bibi.

  • hfhfhhf
  • hfhfhhf
  • bieios
  • James Bond

    Isn’t this the obvious work of Ernst Stavro Blofeld?