The IAF’s Yas’ur transport helicopters will gradually return to operational duty after several months during which the fleet was grounded following a catastrophic engine fire last September in which one of the choppers was destroyed following a technical malfunction in its engine.
The helicopter was one of three en route to a base in the South for a training exercise and was flying at a height of 170 meters when another aircraft notified the pilots of the fire in the engine.
Carrying out an emergency landing, the safely pilots brought down their helicopter near Kibbutz Beit Kama in the northern Negev . All 11 soldiers from the elite Shaldag commando unit and two pilots onboard the doomed Yas’ur escaped unhurt.
On Sunday, IAF Commander Maj.-Gen. Amikam Norkin decided that despite the investigation into the incident being incomplete, the fleet would return to the skies after extensive maintenance and inspection work that has been carried out on the platforms.
“In the last month, a comprehensive and professional investigation, which has not yet been completed, is being carried out by a team of experts led by Col. “A.,” the military said, adding that Norkin “received the interim findings and the recommendations of the expert team formulated with the CH-53 helicopter manufacturer.”
The recommendations included the steps required for the safe redeployment of the Yas’ur.
The interim findings of the investigation provided data about the possible causes of the accident and the ways to safely return the Yas’ur to flight, but have not yet conclusively determined the cause of the crash of the helicopter.
According to a statement released by the military, all work is being done in coordination with the manufacturer and other militaries who operate similar helicopters in order “to enable the platform to return to flight safely.”
First used by the IAF in 1969, the Yas’ur helicopters are the air force’s primary helicopter used regularly to transport soldiers and equipment. They have also taken part in a wide variety of missions, including secret operations as well as search and rescue missions, and are used regularly to transport soldiers and equipment.
While the aging helicopters have been upgraded with 20 new electronic systems and missile defense, the IAF will still need to replace them by 2025 when they will be more than 50 years old.
The IAF plans to buy 20 new heavy-lift helicopters – in other words, one squadron – to replace the current CH-53 Sea Stallion squadron at the Tel Nof base. The two options in the running are Lockheed Martin Sikorsky’s CH-53K King Stallion, the same maker of the Yas’ur, and Boeing’s Ch-47F Chinook helicopter.