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IDF chopper makes emergency landing in West Bank

Army investigating what caused technical problem that briefly grounded Apache helicopter in southern Hebron Hills

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

An illustrative photo of an Israel Air Force Apache helicopter, taken on December 25, 2014 at Hatzerim Air Base in Israel ( AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov)
An illustrative photo of an Israel Air Force Apache helicopter, taken on December 25, 2014 at Hatzerim Air Base in Israel ( AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov)

An IDF helicopter carried out an emergency landing in the southern West Bank on Sunday, following a technical issue with the aircraft, the army said.

On Sunday evening, the Apache attack helicopter experienced a “technical error” while flying over the southern Hebron Hills in the West Bank. It made an emergency landing and crews set to work fixing the problem, the army said.

As soon as the helicopter was back in working order, “it took off and returned to its base,” according to an army statement.

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

As the attack helicopter was grounded in the West Bank, news of the emergency landing was kept under a military censor until the aircraft was out of danger.

The army would not specify the nature of the technical problem; however, the Walla news site reported that the rear of the aircraft began shaking, which was not in itself dangerous, but could be indicative of a more serious problem.

The IDF said the entire incident was under investigation.

In June, the head of the Israeli Air Force grounded the entire fleet of Apache helicopters, after a crack was found in the rear rotor of one of them.

Earlier this month, the helicopters were returned to service.

The inspections reportedly 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.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report

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