JERUSALEM — Two Israeli reservists were killed early Tuesday when their attack helicopter crashed during a training mission in the south of the country, the military said in a statement.
The accident happened at around 1 a.m. (2300 GMT Monday) during a training flight, with the Bell AH-1 Cobra attack helicopter going down in the Shfela region, which lies between the southern West Bank and the Mediterranean. It was not immediately clear why it crashed.
“A Bell AH-1 Cobra helicopter crashed overnight during a routine training flight in the area of the Shfela,” the statement said. Air force Chief Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel immediately ordered that all such Cobra helicopters be grounded until the cause of the crash was established.
“At approximately 1:00 a.m., contact was lost with the helicopter as it was en route from a routine training flight to Palmahim air base,” the statement said. “IDF ground and air forces commenced a wide-scale search for the aircraft and the pilots. At approximately 5:15 a.m., the remains of the helicopter were discovered, and no survivors were found,” it said.
Israeli media named the two who died as Lt. Col. Noam Ron, 49, and Maj. Erez Flexer, 31.
In September 2008, Israel was forced to ground its fleet of Cobra helicopters after two soldiers were killed during a routine training flight near the northern town of Afula.
The U.S.-built Cobra is a two-bladed, single engine attack helicopter manufactured by Bell Helicopter that has been used by the Israeli air force for close to 40 years.