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118 Squadron (Israel)
Squadron 118 IAF
Nocturnal Birds of Prey Squadron
Country Flag of Israel.svg Israel
Branch Air Force Ensign of Israel.svg Israeli Air Force
Service history
Commanders
Insignia

The 118 Squadron of the Israeli Air Force, also known as the Nocturnal Birds of Prey Squadron, is a helicopter squadron of CH-53-2000 Sea Stallions based at Tel Nof Airbase.[1]

2010 crash in RomaniaEdit

On 26 July 2010 a 118 Squadron Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion Yas'ur helicopter crashed during a training flight at high altitude in the Carpathian mountains, near the city of Brasov in Romania. All onboard died, four Israeli pilots, two Israeli mechanics and one Romanian officer.[2][3]

After an agreement was signed in 2003, early in 2004 the Israeli Air Force began cooperation with several air forces of the European armies. As part of the cooperation agreements the Israeli air force is permitted to train in various foreign air spaces. In this way, these agreements opened the possibility for the Israeli air force to practice in complex conditions which are not available in Israel. Initially the training was mostly based in Turkey and over the Black Sea, but later, the training expanded to various countries in Europe. The cooperation agreement between Israel and Romania was signed in September 2003 between the IAF Corps Commander Major General Dan Halutz, and the commander of the Romanian Air Force Major General Gheorghe Catrina.

On 18 July 2010 a joint training of the Israeli Air Force and Romanian Air Force, began in which Yasur helicopters from 118 Squadron were used. The helicopter contained an observer on behalf of the Romanian Air Force, a pair of Israeli pilots, a couple of Israeli mechanics, and another set of Israeli pilots who were replace the first set of pilots during the exercise.[4]

IAF CH-53

An IAF Sikorsky CH-53 Yas'ur helicopter, similar to the aircraft involved in the accident

On 26 July 2010 at 13:15 two Yasur helicopters took off from the Romanian Air Force Base in Boboc and headed north toward the Carpathian mountains. The fog which prevailed at the flight altitude made it difficult to navigate the helicopter.

At around 15:20 the two helicopters went to an altitude of 6200 feet towards a mountain which was in front of them with the aim of passing it, entering heavy fog. Due to the heavy fog, one of the helicopters did not see the edge of the mountain which was to his left, and when he turned left he crashed into the mountain and caught on fire.

Six Israeli serviceman and one Romanian liaison officer were killed in the accident.[5]

Initial reports over the loss of contact with the CH-53 helicopter were received in the Israeli Air Force headquarters around 17:00 pm (Israeli time), and as a result a gag order was issued in Israel over releasing information regarding the accident in the Israeli media – in order that the IDF would be able to personally contact and inform the families of the deceased, before they heard about it in the media. Although initially the Israeli media did not report the accident, the Internet was flooded with information about the accident in international news websites, blogs and social networks.[6]

Immediately after learning of the accident the Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Ido Nehoshtan appointed a rescue delegation, headed by Brigadier-General Jacob Shaharabani. Soon thereafter they left Israel towards Romania, and included members of the rabbinate, medical professionals, and about 30 soldiers from the Israeli heliborne medevac extraction unit Unit 669.

After arriving near the site of the crash, the Israeli delegation had to climb up to the site of the crash, had search for the fatalities and later on had to extricate them from the site in order to confirm their identification and to bring them to a proper burial.

As a result of the accident, the Israeli Air Force Commander ordered a halt to all Force training flights for one day. Following the accident, the joint training exercise was discontinued and all Israeli participants and Israeli aircraft were returned to Israel.

The Israeli media noted that despite the seniority of the IAF Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion Yas'ur helicopters, the helicopters were recently upgraded, both in terms of systems and in terms of technical care, as part of the "Yas'ur 2025" program aimed at having the Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters remain in service up till 2025.[7]

At noon of 27 July 2010, the Romanian Defense Ministry officially announced in the media that 7 bodies were found, and that there were no survivors in the accident.[8]

Around midnight of 27 July 2010 the Romanian army discover the helicopter's black box. The Romanian troops sent a photo of the black box to the IDF, which confirmed that it was the actual black box of the helicopter. Israeli Air Force officials confirmed that Israel would investigate the black box.[9]

After the accident, officials in the Israeli Air Force requested the Romanian Air Force to bring the remains of the helicopter back to Israel in order that the Israeli Army could carry out a full investigation of the event.[10]

The Romanian and Israeli military aviation commanders decided to collaborate in raising a memorial at the site of the crash.[11]

Seven months after the accident, Israel decided that the widow of the Romanian captain, who was killed in an accident, be given the status of a "widow of the Israeli army", and as such she would be granted a monthly pension from the Israeli Defense Ministry. In addition, it was decided that a special fund would be opened for her baby which would include an initial fund of 20,000 dollars.[11]

ReferencesEdit

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