Workhorse: IAF CH-53 Yasur Is An Israeli Assault Mainstay

Crashes Always Bring Out The Critics

The tragic loss of an IAF CH-53 in Romania possibly killing 7 is sure to bring out the critics as such tragic events nearly always do. The Yasur has indeed suffered some horrific collisions & crashes over its near 50 year history with the IAF..

The most notable of these accidents was a crash in February 1997, when a mid-air collision of two Yasur craft killed 73 Israeli servicemen en route to southern Lebanon. Two decades earlier, in May 1977, the Yasur was at the center of another deadly accident, when 54 paratroopers lost their lives in a crash during a training accident not far from the West Bank town of Jericho.

Several months later, another accident involving the Yasur saw four servicemen killed in a crash close to Kibbutz Gat in southern Israel. In summer 1971, another Yasur helicopter crashed into the sea off the Sinai coast, killing 10 soldiers and officers as they returned to Israel following a mission.

In April 1974, two more Yasur helicopters were involved in a collision, when one landed directly on another already on the ground. Eight soldiers were killed in the incident.

In August 1992, two members of the IDF’s elite search and rescue unit, the 669, were killed in a training accident in the Judean Desert. The two soldiers fell to their deaths when a rope used to descend from a Yasur broke.

During the Second Lebanon War, Hezbollah succeeded in shooting down a Yasur, killing its five crew members. [...]

Modernization Program

Those incidents represent extreme numbers casualty wise. But the numbers are high because the Yasur is both so critical, and heavily utilized. It is the backbone of the IDF’s troop transport capabilities holding over 20 soldiers. Nearly every legendary assault by the IDF in some shape or form involves our CH-53s. Recently, there have been pushes to replace the venerable Yasur choppers with the US VTOL Osprey.

The Yasurs are just too old is the usual theme, followed by those heavy loss statistics. However, today’s IAF Yasurs are a far cry from their original incarnation and have undergone two full modernization programs, the latest Yasur 2025 has extended the operational life of the choppers well into the next 2 decades.

From the IDF in 2007..

A new version of the ‘Yasur’ helicopter joined the growing IAF fleet. The ‘Yasur 2025’ program, two and a half years running, hopes to improve the IAF’s ‘Yasur’ helicopters by extending their service in the force until the year 2025. “Today Israel’s best assembly lines are rolling out prototypes of new strategic combat helicopters,” said commander of the IAF base in Tel Nof, Brigadier General Ronen Dan during his speech.

The ‘Yasur’ helicopters squadron has served the Air Force since the 1960s and is an essential part of the IDF fighting forces. Whether in routine operations, in transporting forces and equipment, in evacuating combat soldiers from the field and in executing other special missions. “From 1969 until today, the ‘Yasur’ helicopters have written many significant pages in history, and have executed operations which the vast majority of people are not even aware of, but are grateful for” added Brigadier General Dan. Three years ago, it was decided that the expected life for functioning helicopters should be extended, and lengthen their service until 2025.

As part of the project, new systems were installed on the helicopter, among them were, self-defense systems, electronic countermeasures, network communication, flight safety, and other advanced systems – most of them are developed in Israel. “We all wait with baited breath to fly on the newly improved platform which brings with it impressive capabilities in many different aspects. It has the compatibility for further improvements in the future as well as installing other systems, and is infinitely important to the battlefield of the future.

Yasur 2025

The new modernized IDF / IAF Yasur 2025 CH-53 sports all new capabilities making it a continued mainstay in IDF operations for the next 15 years or more. It appears likely this is the chopper variant lost in Romania (Photo Xnir)

The choppers have been retooled. The IDF naturally generalizes but part of the re-tool includes upgraded modern avionics & systems with Israeli variants, offensive Air to Ground missile targeting and launching capabilites, hover & stabilization technologies, as well as a new raised operational ceiling well above normal..

Work to modify the CH-53 “Yasur” with 20 new systems was completed at the air force’s 22 maintenance unit late last year, with key elements including the installation of new electronic warfare and satellite communications equipment. Some of the equipment will enable the CH-53 2025 to perform high-altitude relay missions, with earlier test flights having seen the type reach an altitude of 18,000ft (5,490m).

Flight testing?

The latest crash was deep in mountainous terrain within Romania, likely at higher altitudes perhaps testing some of the new Yasur 2025 capabilities in adverse weather. Dangerous business. The loss of our soldiers especially during operational training is never easy. Keeping the IDF on the cutting edge in both manpower & technology is a terribly costly endeavour. Pilot error, mechanical failure all take their toll and leave every Israeli saddened.

But now is not the time to just mourn this sacrifice, question our brave men and women or their equipment. Instead we should celebrate their achievements. Our pilots and the Yasur’s they fly are the workhorse of the IDF, keeping us safe through their skill and daring.

Through 2025 and well beyond.

The following are the names of the six missing personnel who were on the IAF helicopter that crashed in Romania:

Lt. Col (Res.) Avner Goldman (48), Modi’in
Lt. Col. Daniel Shipenbauer (43), Kidron
Maj. Yahel Keshet (33), Hatzerim
Maj. Lior Shai (28), Tel-Nof
Lt. Nir Lakrif (25), Tel- Nof
Sergeant 1st capabilitiesClass Oren Cohen (24),endeavor Rehovot

Let’s hope they can yet be recovered.

UPDATE:
Sadly I was being respectful to the families this morning when I wrote that line above. We all knew tragically, that no one was going to be recovered alive from the crash site. The IDF has released now officially that all six Israeli aviators and the lone Romanian soldier onboard were KIA in the crash.

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  • Yehuda

    How terribly insensitive to say that the sacrifice is justified.
    So it seems that the Roumania affair was a flight test to see if the new modifications work, very nice, I suppose that for the “security” expert in IDF the cost is well worth it, perhaps they should call this kamikaze training.

  • @ Yehuda:
    What a ridiculous comment you made – Military personnel know the risks, these men loved flying & serving their country. What they do is put their lives on the line every day for the benefit of the citizens of the State of Israel. When they make that sacrifice, it only honors them to point out how critical their mission is.

    Flight testing, training for adverse conditions, training in terrain Israel does not have but may face all this saves lives. It is not only justified, without our soldiers we would not be here.

  • i like it ;-)

  • :-) cool!