סיקורסקי S-58

Sikorsky S-58

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The S-55's low engine capacity led the IAF's helicopter squadrons to search for a chopper better suited to Israel's warm, dry climate. Following Operation 'Kadesh' in 1956, Lt. Col. Rehav'am Ze'evi, Cpt. Uri Yarom (the Helicopter Squadron Commander) and additional officers went to France, to learn up close about the way the Armee de l'Air uses its Alouette and S-58 choppers in action.

It was decided that the IAF and the 'Tzanhanim' - the IDF Paratroop Battalion - would share the responsibility of taking in the new helicopters. For diplomatic and budgetary reasons, only three choppers were purchased at first. These were S-58B civilian models. Their engine capacity was identical to that of the military models - and their performance similar.

On June 5th 1957 a crew of mechanics headed by Cpt. Shabtai Katz underwent training in the US, which enabled them to assist in training the S-58 ground crews. On February 13th 1957, the first two S-58s arrived, and the third followed on March 4th. They were sent directly to the Air Maintenance Unit.

The fortnight preceding the Six Day War was spent in preparation and training, which included reserve crews. May 28th 1967 was a busy one for the Helicopter Squadron: a state of heightened alert was declared, and the squadron’s choppers were armed. In a quick cooperative effort between the technical wing, the Maintenance Squadron, the Aerial Armaments Branch and Chief Paratroop Officer Aharon Davidi. On the eve of the war, the squadron had almost 30 serviceable S-58s, as well as some Bell-47s which had belonged to the Flight School. The S-58s' great potential as transport, assault and armament helicopters was to become apparent when the war began.

On June 6th 1967 the Squadron carried out the largest-scale airborne troop landing operation ever undertaken until then, when about 600 paratroopers and infantrymen were landed at Umm el-Katef and Umm Shiriyan. These were reinforcements sent to aid General Ariel Sharon's division. 11 choppers participated in the first wave of the landing operation, 14 in the second and third, and 17 in the fourth. It was only in the fifth wave that the Egyptians began to put up serious AA resistance - and ended the landing operation.

In December of 1967, Bell-205s began arriving in Israel. The S-58s were outdated and were retired in 1969

** Merci àNicolas Pierre-Yves pour l'aimable contribution de son hélicoptère réalisé au 1/72 **

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