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Tuesday October 19, 1999

Israel Says Apaches Were Flawed

JERUSALEM ( AP ) - The U.S. military failed to inform Israel about its inquiries into mechanical faults in the Apache attack helicopter, which later caused a fatal crash in Israel, the Israeli military charged Tuesday.

Israel radio said this was one of the findings of the Israeli inquiry into the crash, in which a flight mechanic was killed and the pilot injured. The accident happened in southern Israel on June 1.

The Apache helicopter, in service in the U.S. Army since 1984, carries antitank missiles and a machine gun and can operate in bad weather and at night.

Responding to the report, the military said the U.S. military had failed to pinpoint the reason for Apache crashes in 1993 and 1994. It turned out that equipment failures similar to the one that caused the crash here were to blame. The U.S. military did not pass the results of its inquiries on to Israel, the military said.

The spokesman of the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, Larry Schwartz, said he did not know precisely when the fault was discovered, but he added ``it is preposterous to believe that we would deliberately withhold information concerning the safety of the helicopters.''

The inquiry found that a faulty part in the helicopter's hydraulic system caused the crash. Also, the helicopter's emergency backup system did not work as designed, the inquiry found.

When the hydraulic system failed, the pilot attempted an emergency landing, but the rotors jammed and the aircraft crashed. The army blamed the Boeing Company, which manufactures the Apache, for the defects.

Two Apache helicopters crashed in Albania while training for missions in Kosovo this year, killing two crewmen. It is not known if the same defects caused those crashes.

The Israel air force inquiry showed that the hydraulic part that caused the June 1 crash had worn out much faster than expected.

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