Air Force grounds fleet of Yasur choppers after malfunction

Aging transport helicopters have seen numerous maintenance issues in recent years; no damage or injuries during incident on Wednesday night

Emanuel (Mannie) Fabian is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

IAF CH-53 'Yasur' helicopters take part in an independence day flyby in Tel Aviv on April 26, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)
IAF CH-53 'Yasur' helicopters take part in an independence day flyby in Tel Aviv on April 26, 2023. (Emanuel Fabian/Times of Israel)

The Israeli Air Force on Friday grounded its fleet of heavy transport 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 on Wednesday night. There were no injuries or damage during the incident, the Israel Defense Forces said.

IAF chief Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar on Friday ordered the grounding of the entire Yasur fleet pending the completion of an investigation.

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.

In 2010, a Yasur helicopter crashed during a joint Israeli-Romanian low-altitude training exercise in the Carpathian mountains, killing the entire crew aboard — six Israelis and one Romanian air force officer.

In 1997, two Yasur helicopters collided in the air while en route to locations in the country’s then-security zone in southern Lebanon. Seventy-three soldiers were killed in what was Israel’s most devastating air disaster.

The first batch of advanced Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopters, to replace the Yasur choppers, are scheduled to arrive in Israel in 2026.

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