Air Force grounds fleet of Apache choppers after technical issue discovered

IAF chief Tomer Bar says helicopters will return to service after the entire fleet has been inspected; move comes after Yasur choppers were briefly grounded last month

An Israeli military AH-64 Apache attack helicopter flies over southern Israel on August 7, 2022. (Jack Guez/AFP)
An Israeli military AH-64 Apache attack helicopter flies over southern Israel on August 7, 2022. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The Israeli Air Force on Wednesday grounded its fleet of Apache helicopters after a technical issue was found during routine maintenance, the military said.

The fleet, known in Israel as Seraph, will remain grounded until all of the choppers can be checked for the issue and cleared to return to operational usage, ruled IAF chief Tomer Bar.

The force did not elaborate on the issue.

Earlier this year during the Independence Day flyby, an IDF Apache helicopter pulled out and landed in a kibbutz in central Israel due to a technical fault. The military stressed that the incident was not an emergency landing.

In 2017, an Apache attack helicopter on a training mission crashed on a base in southern Israel, killing the pilot and critically injuring a crew member.

The entire fleet was grounded for two months before it was declared once again operational by the military.

Illustrative. An Israeli Air Force Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopter, June 8, 2012. (Ofer Zidon/Flash90/File)

Last month, the air force also grounded its entire fleet of Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion — known in Israel as the Yasur — helicopters after a “technical malfunction” arose during a training flight earlier this week, the military said.

The aircraft — a Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion model, known in Israel as a Yasur — made a safe landing at an air base in central Israel following the malfunction. There were no injuries or damage during the incident.

The fleet was returned back to service five days later, following the “completion of a thorough and comprehensive examination and verification that the fleet can return to safe operation,” the military said at the time.

The Yasur choppers have been in use for over half a century and have seen a number of maintenance issues in recent years, leading to them being grounded for short periods. They are due to be replaced in the coming years.

In November 2020, the pilots of one such aircraft were forced to make an emergency landing in an open field in southern Israel following a technical failure in a gear connected to its left rotor, which caused a fire that destroyed the aircraft.

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