A Heavy Burden: The CH- 53 “Sea Stallion” Marks 45 Years in the IAF

Many of the special missions that the CH-53 has executed will remain unknown for years to come A Heavy Burden: The CH- 53 “Sea Stallion” Marks 45 Years in the IAF

The Yas’ur has known both historic operations and darker days A Heavy Burden: The CH- 53 “Sea Stallion” Marks 45 Years in the IAF

“It’s a helicopter that is capable of giving more than it is intended to give” The CH-53 Sea Stallion (Yas’ur) which marks 45 years of service in the IAF, has known both historic operations and darker days. From evacuating injured soldiers to airdropping troops and electronic warfare mission─ its pilots talk about a “machine with a soul that is capable of feeling the pilot”

David Greenwald

On October 26th, 1969 the IAF celebrated: the first of the CH-53 “Sea Stallion” heavy-lift transport helicopters officially drafted and changed the face of the IAF. These helicopters, named Yas’ur in Hebrew, which have known brilliant successes and painful losses, are capable of carrying dozens of troops and bringing them to the combat zone, loading stretchers from the battlefield and even take part in electronic warfare mission operations.

Aircrews from the “Leaders of the Night” and “Nocturnal Birds” squadrons at the Tel Nof airbase who operate the big helicopter, say it is not a normal aircraft. “We believe that Yas’ur is 28.87 meters of a ‘machine with a soul that is capable of feeling’ its pilot”, explains Major (res.) N’ from the “Nocturnal Birds” squadron. “It’s a helicopter that is capable of giving more than it is intended to give, when needed”.

Many of the special missions that the Yas’ur has executed will remain unknown for years to come, but some are allowed to be published.
On December 25th, 1969, a mere few weeks after joining the IAF, three CH-53 helicopters took part in Operation “Rooster 53”, during which a Soviet radar station brought from Egypt to Israel.In Operation “Dessert”, which was conducted during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the helicopters brought 625 paratroops to the peaks of Mt. Hermon in broad daylight during a low-altitude flight in a threatened area and in May of 1994, they brought Special Forces deep into Lebanon in order to kidnap Mustafa Dirani, the Hezbollah operator who held Ron Arad, the IAF weapon system officer.

Remembering The Fallen
Alongside the operations the helicopters have executed, the heavy helicopters have also known their share of accidents and disasters. The most infamous of these is the “Helicopters Disaster”, which took place on the night of February 4th 1997: 73 soldiers from different brigades were killed, among them 8 aircrew members, after the collision of two helicopters above the Hula Valley near the Lebanese border. The “Disaster of the 54” in 1977, in which 54 IDF soldiers, among them 10 aircrew members, were killed when a Yas’ur crashed, has been engraved in the history of the IAF as one of the worst aerial disasters in its history. After the disaster, the number of passengers in the helicopter was limited to 33 and 4 aircrew members. In July, 2010, as part of a high-altitude flight training exercise in Romania, a Yas’ur crashed into a mountain side and claimed the lives of four pilots, two airborne mechanics and a Romanian officer.

Sticking With Yas’ur
Over the many years in which the big helicopters have served in the IAF, the CH-53 helicopters have undergone several improvements that have extended their lifespan, allowing them to continue flying safely for many years past the manufacturer’s instructions, while adjusting their operational capabilities to the current warfare. Project ” Yas’ur 2000″, which took place during the 80s and 90s, gave helicopters the possibility of flying safely until the millennium and project “Yas’ur 2025”, which is currently being undertaken, will extend the lifespan of the helicopters until the quarter century. “Even though it arrived in the IAF many years ago, it is a helicopter that still does good work and contains the most advanced systems around”, explains Captain A’ from the “Nocturnal Birds” squadron. “It does everything a helicopter can do. It’s impressive seeing this ‘beast’ taking to the air and hovering all over again”.

 

 

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