Israel Air Force marking 50 years of Yasur helicopter operations

The IAF will still need to replace their heavy-lift workhorse by 2025.

CH-53 helicopter (photo credit: GUY ASHASH/IAF)
CH-53 helicopter
(photo credit: GUY ASHASH/IAF)
The Israeli Air Force marked 50 years of operational use of the CH-53D Yasur helicopters at the Tel Nof air base in central Israel.
“As a fellow CH-53 pilot and on behalf of all of Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky, I’d like to congratulate the Israeli Air Force for 50 years of CH-53 operations,” Sikorsky President Dan Schultz said on Thursday. “I’m proud that the Yasur fleet has served the IAF so gallantly for so long.”
First used by the IAF in 1969, the Yasur 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.
Schultz said the company is convinced the CH-53K is the perfect solution for the IAF.
“Newly designed and providing superior safety, capability, growth and affordability, the CH-53K will enable a worthy transition from one CH-53 generation to the next within the Israel Air Force,” Schultz said.
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.
In March, the State Comptroller’s Report recommended that the IAF replace the aging aircraft as soon as possible, as “prolonging the life of the Yasur is liable to endanger human life and may have significant operational implications and substantial maintenance costs.”
The air force, the report added, should “consider purchasing the Yasur replacement option early so that it will be as close as possible to the date on which the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the United States is implemented.”
According to the comptroller report, there is also a gap in the availability of spare parts for the aging aircraft that “require maintenance more frequently.” The report recommended examining alternatives to ensure their continued use.
The IAF plans to buy some 20 new heavy-lift helicopters – one squadron – to replace the current CH-53 Sea Stallion squadron at the Tel Nof Base. The two options in the running are the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion by Lockheed Martin – the maker of the Yasur – and Boeing’s Ch-47F Chinook helicopter.
Senior IAF officials – including Brig.-Gen. Noam Reef, head of the IAF Helicopter Division, and Brig.-Gen. Amir Keren, IAF attache to the US – recently looked at the helicopter in Maryland and told Lockheed Martin that they intend to evaluate the helicopter as a possible replacement for the older aircraft, with a flight evaluation later this year.
According to senior Lockheed Martin representatives, it would take 36 months to deliver the new helicopters after the IAF signs a contract with the company.
The CH-53K is powered by three engines giving it a cruising speed of 261 km/h and a range of 530 miles (852 km.). The aircraft can be used in a variety of missions including rescue operations, transport missions, tactical troop lifts as well as support for special operations.
With a maximum carrying weight of 36,000 pounds (16,329 kg.), the CH-53K offers three times the carrying power of its predecessor. It has been designed by the company to ensure reliability, low maintenance and enhanced survivability.
Boeing’s twin-engine, tandem rotor heavy-lift helicopter Chinook, meanwhile, has a full digital management system in the glass cockpit, and has increased survivability capabilities such as radar and missile warning systems. While used mainly for troop transport (able to carry between 35 and 75 soldiers), artillery placement and battlefield resupply, it can be configured in 20 different ways.
With over 950 Chinooks flown by 20 militaries, it is a versatile multi-role and multi-mission helicopter with a cruising speed of 291 km/h, a standard mission range of 400 nautical miles (370.4 km.) and almost double the range for the extended configuration.