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Air force returns Apache fleet to service after safety fears

IAF to institute new protocols following recent grounding, which was ordered after crack found in a helicopter’s back rotor

An Israeli Apache helicopter fires missiles during a training exercise (Illustrative photo:Ofer Zidon/Flash90)
An Israeli Apache helicopter fires missiles during a training exercise (Illustrative photo:Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

The Israel Air Force on Tuesday returned its fleet of Apache helicopters to operation after they had been grounded for nearly a month over safety concerns.

A safety inspection of one helicopter in early June uncovered a crack in its back rotor, leading Air Force chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel to ground the entire fleet for detailed inspections.

According to Channel 10, the inspections uncovered a second crack in the original helicopter, but determined that the rest of the fleet was fit to fly. Inspectors concluded that the cracks were due to heavy use of the helicopter, which had clocked over 2,000 flight hours by the time the cracks had begun forming.

The Air Force said it will institute new safety regulations, including shortening the rotor blades’ lifespan by 80 percent and implementing regular X-ray checks of all blades.

Israel relies on its Apache attack helicopters to provide close air support for ground troops, while other types of helicopters are used for troop movement and supply transportation.

Israel has two squadrons of Apaches, which fly out of the Ramon Air Base in the Negev desert.

Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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