(photo credit: IAF)
The Israel Air Force plans to conduct the first test flight this week of its newly upgraded transport helicopter - the Yasour 2025 - equipped with more than 20 new electronic systems including, for the first time on helicopters, a missile-defense system.
The Yasour - the IAF's name for the Sikorsky CH-53 - was first put into service with the IAF in 1969 after being bought from the United States. It is the IAF's primary craft for transporting soldiers - it can carry 35 - and was used extensively during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
The aircraft were received over a number of years and came in several varieties since they were modified for use by the US Navy, Air Force, Army and Marines.
The upgrades are meant to extend the useful life of the aircraft until 2025, according to the project's head, Maj. Avichai. The across-the-fleet upgrades are costing millions of dollars and are being done in-house by the IAF's maintenance unit. The last upgrade, performed in the late '90, was outsourced to a local defense company.
"These upgrades will give the aircraft new operational capabilities," Maj. Avichai said. "This skips the Yasour a generation forward and connects it to the rest of the IAF, and will make the helicopter relevant once again."
He said the aircraft would be fitted with new avionics, digital screens, command-and-control systems and an innovative automatic hovering system.
The helicopter will also be equipped with an electronic anti-missile system. During last summer's war, a Yasour was shot down in Lebanon by Hizbullah, killing all of its crew members.
"There is no such thing as complete defense," Maj. Avichai said. "But this will give the aircraft new capabilities to be able to complete its missions."
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