An Israel Air Force Yasur helicopter made an emergency landing on Tuesday due to a technical problem that caused its engine to catch fire.
The air force has launched an investigation and Air Force Commander Amikam Norkin has ordered all Yasurs grounded until the source of the problem is found.
None of those on the helicopter that landed near Kibbutz Beit Kama, in the northern Negev, were injured.
The malfunction occurred when the helicopter was at an altitude of 170 meters (about 550 feet), the Israel Defense Forces said, and it took only about a minute from the time when the fire broke out until the helicopter landed. Two pilots, a technician and 11 members of the Shaldag air force commando unit who were en route to a training exercise were on board at the time. Although everyone escaped safely, the helicopter was destroyed in the fire.
The Yasur is an American-made Sikorsky aircraft that has been used by the Israeli military for 50 years. Some of the choppers have undergone substantial upgrading with advanced technology and don’t resemble the first Yasurs that were exported to Israel in 1969.
The Israel Air Force has already decided to take them out of service in 2025, although, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, they should have already been phased out, based on the number of hours that they have flown. The IDF is now considering which helicopters will replace the Yasur, and a decision is expected within the next several months.
A report from the State Comptroller’s Office in March found serious deficiencies in the air force’s helicopter fleet. The comptroller report said continued use of the Yasurs beyond their maximum recommended flight hours could “erode the IDF’s core capabilities, in which the Yasur fleet plays a central role.”
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The comptroller also said that the Yasurs “don’t fully address the operational needs” provided for in astatn IDF strategy document that described the helicopter fleet as a strategic part of various operational plans. The report also noted gaps in cooperation between the helicopter squadrons and ground forces and stated that training provided to the ground forces was insufficient to maintain its readiness to work in cooperation with the helicopter squadrons. This could seriously undermine the ground forces’ capacity to deploy the helicopters when necessary during combat, the report stated.