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IAF Aircraft Inventory: Sikorsky S-58

The Sikorsky S-58 was first flown on March 8th 1954 and entered service as the HSS-1 for the U.S. Navy and Marines and as the H-34 for the U.S. Army and Air Force.

The poor engine performance shown by the Sikorsky S-55 prompted the IAF to look for a replacement and an Israeli delegation journeyed to France to study helicoter use by the French. The joint air force/paratroops delegation recommended the acquisition of the S-58 and on February 13th 1958 the first pair arrived in Israel, followed by another helicopter in March. The "Rolling Sword" squadron, which operated all IAF helicopters at the time, operated only a few examples until 1962 when 24 S-58s earmarked for the West German air force were covertly rerouted to Israel.

At the outbreak of the Six Days War on June 5th 1967 the "Rolling Sword" squadron had 28 airworthy S-58s in its inventory. The helicopters begun the war evacuating pilots downed during operation "Moked", the opening move of the war, but became more involved as the ground war progressed. On the night of June 5th-6th the S-58s airlifted 600 IDF soldiers behind Egyptian lines in the center of the Sinai after Israeli armour had met fierce resistance. This ground force then destoryed an Egpytian artillery position, hastening the collapse of the Egyptian front. On June 7th S-58s were tasked with airlifting Israeli paratroops to capture the southernmost point in the Sinai, Sharm-A-Sheik, but arrived at the site to find it abandoned. During the final operation of the war, the conquest of the Golan Heights from the Syrians, the S-58s flew Israeli paratroops in to take control of the southern Golan. In three separate airlifts on June 9th-10th, the paratroops were inserted behind Syrian lines and attacked retreating Syrian forces.

The S-58 continued to fly combat missions after the end of the Six Days War, mainly against Palestinians infiltrating Israel or against their bases in Jordan. On March 21st 1968 they participated in operation "Tofet" (inferno) against the Jordanian village of Karama, bringing Israeli troops in and out as well as evacuating the wounded. Operation "Tofet" was the last operation of the S-58 as it was reitred shortly later, replaced by the Bell 205 and Aerospatiale Super Frelon.

Specification: Sikorsky S-58
Type: two crew tactical transport and SAR helicopter.
Powerplant: one air-cooled Wright R-1820-84 Cyclone radial engine.
Performance: max speed - 198km/h, range - 293km.
Weights: empty - 3,450kg, max takeoff - 5,900kg.
Dimensions: rotor length - 17.07m, fuselage length - 14.25m, height - 4.85m.
Armament: none.

Sources: IAF Inventory