October 13, Images appeared on social media platform X, showing a destroyed Israeli CH-53 Yasur helicopter.

On October 7, Hamas armed forces attacked Israeli military bases and many civilian targets from the Gaza Strip. In response, the Israeli government promised to take control of the area and destroy hostile fighters. The above developments raise concerns that violence will become out of control. Of course, Hamas is not an easy opponent for Israel. In the opinion of analysts, Tel Aviv itself may not be ready for the losses that will occur after they send all their forces into Palestinian territory.

October 13, Images appeared on social media platform X, showing a destroyed Israeli CH-53 Yasur helicopter. Local Israeli media reports indicate that the Israeli military’s heavy transport helicopter, was forced to make an emergency landing at a location in Kibbutz Beeri in southern Israel after it was hit by light weapons fire from Hamas fighters. The Israeli army’s Sikorsky CH-53 “Yasur” transport helicopter (a variant of the CH-53 Stallion) caught fire in the south of the country after being attacked by a Hamas Kornet anti-tank missile system.

According to local media reports in Israel, the heavy transport helicopter was reportedly destroyed on October 7, the first day of the attack. It is the first Israeli military helicopter confirmed to be destroyed in this series of conflicts between Hamas and Israel. None of the dozens of soldiers aboard the Sikorsky CH-53 were hurt, as pilots managed to safely land the aircraft before it went up in flames.  According to local media, the Yasur helo made an emergency landing and was hit by a Hamas’s anti-tank guided missile while on the ground afterward.

Israel has two squadrons of CH-53 helicopters that have been in operation since 1968. In August 1968, the Israeli Air Force considered Boeing’s CH-47 Chinook and Sikorsky’s CH-53 for its need for a helicopter with augmented payload carry capacity, highly maneuverable and robust, that could survive direct hits from different caliber projectiles. They realized that Sikorsky’s CH-53 was both larger and more powerful than any other IAF helicopter and thus represented a major advance in capabilities. Based on the experience gained from the fierce fighting during the Six-Day War, the Israeli Air Force chose the CH-53.

On 2 October 1969, the first helicopters were delivered to Israel of an initial order of seven. At the time, the country was engaged in the War of Attrition, and thus the type was quickly dispatched into combat. A further 35 helicopter were delivered to fulfil subsequent orders. On August 6, 1970, the first Yas’ur squadron was established. For several decades, the type has served as the primary cargo helicopters of the IAF, being routinely used to carry both troops and heavy equipment.

During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the Yas’ur routinely moved artillery batteries and for the insertion of IDF units around the fronts. The type was also used to evacuate hundreds of wounded soldiers and rescued pilots from behind enemy lines in both Egypt and Syria. During the 1980s, Israel Aircraft Industries, along with military high-tech firm Elbit Systems, commenced a major upgrade program for the IAF Yas’ur fleet. The project, which was completed in 1997, improved the CH-53’s avionics and increased its robustness, as well as extending the fleet’s operating life by at least two decades.

CH-53 Yasur can carry out a number of missions, including long-range heavy assault and deep-penetration insertion and extraction of special operations teams. But maybe their most important mission is that of combat search and rescue (CSAR). Considering the regular headlines alone, which include IAF strikes over hostile territory and clandestine operations far from its borders, the Yasurs and their crews can be called upon to go about their work in very high-risk combat environments.

The Yasur fleet has gone through another upgrade, dubbed Yasur 2025, which will allow it to remain relevant throughout the next decade. This upgrade included a deep airframe and powerplant overhaul and enhancements to the helicopter’s communications system, which includes satellite connectivity, updated data-links, and Elbit Systems’ Helicom networking architecture along with the touchscreen display interfaces to operate it.

Currently, Israel is considering the CH-53K King Stallion and a variant of the CH-47F Chinook as a replacement. But until then, Israel’s Yasurs will continue to carry out some of the IAF’s most challenging missions, and this modular electronic warfare suite, or others like it, is likely a key to allowing them to do just that.

In the incident where the CH-53 was shot down, Hamas announced that there were up to 50 Israeli special forces soldiers on the helicopter and all were casualties. Tel Aviv denied this information. Regardless, the loss of a CH-53 heavy transport helicopter (most likely the advanced Yas’ur 2025 variant) still causes heavy financial damage to the Israeli Air Force.

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