Analysis: The IAF's helicopter program

Crash leads to questions on overseas training.

311_Yasour (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
ROMANIA - The crash of the Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion - known as the Yasour - raises some serious questions within the IAF regarding the continued use of the IDF's oldest but still believed to be most reliable transport helicopter.
In service for more than 40 years, the Yasour has undergone several modification and upgrade programs. Most recently, the IAF undertook Yasour 2025, a program to extend the life of the aircraft until 2025. If the investigation into the crash reveals a mechanical malfunction the IAF will need to conduct a review of its entire Yasour fleet to ensure that the malfunction does not occur in other aircraft in service.
RELATED:Six IAF men reported dead in Romania helicopter crashBackground: Yasour believed reliableOn a strategic level, the crash in Romania raises questions about the relative value of the IAF's continued training flights overseas and whether they are worth the risk of sending aircraft and training crews a long way from Israel.
The air force has held by a policy in recent years to train as much as possible overseas due to limited airspace in Israel. Until the recent deterioration in ties, the IAF trained frequently in Turkey. But  since Turkish airspace has been closed to them after Operation Cast Lead in 2009, the IAF has been searching for alternatives training areas.
One of the benefits of training overseas is the opportunity given to pilots to fly long distances in unfamiliar terrain. This assists the IAF in preparing for future long range missions, such as a possible Israeli strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. In recent years the IAF has sent fighter jets to the US, and reportedly to Gibraltar, Greece, Italy, Germany and other countries around the world.