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Israel studies CH-53 shoot-down

Israel is to step up its efforts to counter the threat posed to its helicopters by anti-tank missiles, following the loss of an air force Sikorsky CH-53 transport over southern Lebanon on 11 August. The aircraft's five-man crew was killed when it crashed shortly after offloading troops during a major airlift operation that deployed two regiments of Israeli ground forces deep into southern Lebanon.

The Israeli air force has yet to determine the missile type responsible for downing the CH-53, but confirms that the extensive use of anti-tank missiles by Hezbollah created a serious threat to its helicopters while moving infantry units and conducting medical evacuation flights during the recent conflict.

Local sources say that current helicopter defensive systems cannot protect against basic wire-guided missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, but say the later generation laser-guided weapons - such as Russian-produced Kornet missiles already used by Hezbollah - can be engaged. The air force is now evaluating the possible installation of new laser detectors and countermeasures equipment on its helicopters, similar to those already operational on Israeli Merkava main battle tanks.

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