An Israeli accident investigation team has arrived in Romania to identify the cause of a Sikorsky CH-53 transport helicopter crash that has left seven military personnel missing.
Six Israeli air force crew members and one Romanian air force observer were aboard the aircraft when it came down in a mountainous area around 150km (80nm) north-west of Bucharest around 15:00 local time on 26 July.
The aircraft had been taking part in a bilateral exercise dubbed "Blue Skies" when the accident happened. The manouevres had been scheduled to run from 18-29 July, but were immediately halted following the mishap. The CH-53's wreckage was located following a major search and rescue operation.
Israel's air force began conducting mountain flying exercises in Romania in 2004. "Romanian geography includes challenging terrains unfamiliar to Israel," says the Israel defence forces. The air force was training there "to gain experience which may be needed in a future conflict", it adds.
Israel is upgrading most of its fleet to the CH-53 2025 standard
© Israeli air force magazine
Israel's international training activities have more routinely been staged in Turkey over the last several years, but a recent freeze in relations between the countries resulted in the air force returning to Romania.