54 years ago, flight instructor Lt. Yakir Naveh and his cadet Oded Couton, crashed over the Sea of Galilee. This week, the search for the remains of Lt. Naveh will be renewed. “Yakir is an IAF combatant and it is the force’s mission to find him and bring him back”

Eliyah Levitan | Ohad Zeltzer Zubida

The search for the remains of the late Lt. Yakir Naveh, who fell in the line of duty in 1962 over the Sea of Galilee while serving in Flight School, will be renewed tomorrow morning in a search operation which will take place over the course of two months and include dives in the Sea of Galilee. The renewal of the search is being carried out according to plan and not due to new findings or information. “Yakir is an IAF combatant and it is the force’s mission to find him and bring him back”, clarified Lt. Col. Yotam, Head of the IAF Accident Investigation Department.

The Navy’s Under Water Operations Unit, will also participate in the search, in cooperation with the IDF Manpower Directorate which is responsible for missing persons. “This is a mission with significant sentimental value. The families need to send-off their children to service knowing that if – god forbid – something happens, the Force will do everything in its power in order to return their children for burial and that is the idea behind missions such as this. The searchers are combatants and reserve servicemen and women and there are people who request to return every year and take part. This operation embodies the values of friendship and perseverance, it shows that we do not give up and operate in order to bring home the men we sent on a mission”.

Yakir Naveh’s nephew, who was named Yakir after him, followed in his uncle’s footsteps and became an IAF pilot. Today, Yakir’s reserve service is in the Missing Persons Location Unit and will take an active part in the coming search. “As far as I am concerned, the truest way to come full circle is by serving in this unit”, said Yakir. “I have understood the meaning of this throughout the years and hope that I will be part of the team that will have the privilege of finding him, taking him out of the water and burying him in Israel. That is the mission”.

The Search for the Late Lt. Yakir Naveh

Under The Water
54 years ago, the Flight School cadet Oded Couton and his Flight Instructor, Lt. Yakir Naveh, took off in a “Fouga Magister” jet for a training flight. The cadet Oded sat in the front seat and Lt. Naveh sat behind him. The two flew in low altitude formation with a few more jets in a flight that took off from the Tel-Nof Airbase and made its way north, when suddenly, over the Sea of Galilee, the jet’s nose hit the water, it hopped and then hit the water again and sank. Shortly after the accident, Oded Couton’s body was found and brought to rest.
After the search operation for Lt. Yakir Naveh was unsuccessful and stopped for many years, in October 2001, the late Pilot Lt. Eliezer Reizner and Navigator Lt. Yehuda Katz who were killed in a “Mosquito” aircraft crash in 1953 were located in the Mediterranean Sea. Lt. Naveh’s family approached the IAF following the event with the request of renewing the search for their son and in 2013 the operation began, with the purpose of locating and returning Lt. Yakir Naveh for burial.

Since the beginning of the operation, many of the aircraft’s parts were recovered, such as the tail, right wing, the frontal canopy and even the engine. One of the most exciting findings was the recovery of Lt. Naveh’s wrist watch in 2009, almost 50 years after the accident. “Every episode of searching lasts about a month to two months, but it is really one long operation and because of constraints there are breaks between episodes of the search”, explains Lt. Col. Yotam.

The Search for the Late Lt. Yakir Naveh

Remains of Lt. Naveh’s aircraft

The Search for the Late Lt. Yakir Naveh

Lt. Naveh’s Watch, found in 2009