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Israeli flight gear then and now 
by: Ron Kraan

This internet site is a non political one, this article will only focus on the gear used in the Israeli Airforce and not why it was used.

As a combat proven airforce, the Heyl Ha’Avir (Israelian Airforce) has some of the most experienced pilots in its ranks. But the constant state of alert, also makes it almost impossible to get a decent picture of an Israelian pilot. The information on this site does not claim to be correct but will give an idea of the flight gear used. For some video footage, i would recommend the Iron Eagle series (!) not for the story, but original Israelian flight gear was used while filming from Ramat David airbase.

The IAF has a different attitude to flight-crew clothing compared to other airforces. Although the crew all proudly wear their squadron/aircraft patches, there is a total lack of rank or occupational insignia. Dictated by combat experience, you are unable to tell the difference between, a colonel pilot and a sergeant flight-engineer. No stars, bars or wings are worn.

The 1950’s
In the early years of their existence, the Israelian Airforce depended heavily on aircraft like the Spitfire, Mosquito and Meteor. As these were British build planes, the flight gear also came from the same source. Early jet jocks and prop drivers were probably wearing C type leather flight helmets with H type masks. Also some USAF type masks and helmets were noted. The lifejackets used ranged from the old Mae West types (early 50’s) and USAAF B-4’s to the (late 50’s) Jacket, life-saving Mk4(A)’s. This orange life vest contained a radio and emergency light. 

During the following years the Israelian Airforce recieved some French build airplanes. Among them the Mystere IV and Vautour. The flight gear however was bought from the USA. The pilots used a range of P-series helmets. From the visorless P-1 to the later P-3 and P-4 types. With this helmet a new oxygen mask was worn, this time the MS22001. The life jacket did not change although the pilots used to wear a B-4 with the P-1 helmet. These were the days of the war with Egypt (Operation "Kadesh") in wich numerous combat flights were made. The IAF first used jet powered planes in the Sinai War. About 50 jets were deployed, alongside a similar number of piston engines planes. Seven Egyptian jets were shot down in dogfights during the war. The IAF lost 15 planes in the fighting. 

The 1960’s
The sixties started were the fifties ended, the flight gear did not change much and Israel stayed on high alert. New planes were taken on charge like the Super Mystere and Mirage III. In 1967 Israel started the 6 Day War with an assault on the airfields of its neighbours. In the Six Day War the air force changed all air power doctrine when it destroyed three Arab air forces in a few hours. New helmets were used while flying. Film footage from these days show Heyl Ha’Avir pilots wearing white HGU-2A/P helmets, of the single visor type, with leather oxygen mask tabs (like the P-series). The oxygen mask remained the MS22001. With this helmet and mask, a kakhi colored coverall was worn. The g-suit seemed to be of the Z-3 or CSU-3B/P type. Footage from these days also show a green flight helmet that appears to be an HGU-2A/P but might be an APH-5 also.

The 1970’s
This was the decade of the October War or Jom Kippoer War. The Israelian Airforce flew the F-4 Phantom, Mirage IIIC and A-4 Skyhawk but had some considerable losses in the first days. Pilots flying the Phantom and Mirage were wearing the HGU-22/P shell or HGU-2/P helmet with a single visor assembly. The MS22001 mask was attached with bayonets and cast recievers to the helmet. The A-4 Skyhawk pilots had slightly different gear. The torso harnass was of the MA-2 full body type and the helmet appeared to be an APH-5 with a one piece ramshorn dual visor setup. The mask was attached with snaps to leather tabs inside the helmet.

The 1980’s to present
New planes in a new decade, F-16’s and F-15’s now dominate the skies over Israel.

Pilots and aircrew continue to wear the HGU-22/P and HGU-2/P helmet assemblies. Only this time most of the helmets are covered with a felt like material. It is not clear which helmet is of the HGU type or the Israelian made ULH (Ultra Light Protective Helmet) series as they all are worked on to the same specifications. Sometimes the entire helmet is covered or large pieces are applied to it. The visor housing is cut to give it a “gullwing” appearance like the EEK-4A/P visor housing. This combined with the thick leather edge roll (PRK-37 or Scott snap-on type) gave some sources the idea the helmet was of the HGU-33 family. There is no evidence what so ever that the helmet is the so called HGU-34HA. The position of the communications cord in the helmet and some other aspects, clearly identify the helmets of being an HGU-22/P shell, HGU-2/P or ULH helmet. The helmet can be white or painted gray, most of the time the holes for the ear cup laces are still in place. 

Some housings are covered in felt, others in black leather. The oxygen receivers are of the cast type or the lightweight ones. A lot of different variations on the theme seem to appear. No helmet looks the same and all are fitted with white chinstraps. The IAF closely follow the HGU-22/P TO while performing upgrades and modifications. Even the lightweight modification is seen. The HGU-22/P or ULH shell is fitted with a single bungee style visor and visor stops. The oxygen receivers are also lightweight and the helmet gives an overall impression of an HGU-55/P.

The manufacturer of the ULH and BLH helmets is not know but the Israelian TAMA firm made some HGU-55/P look a likes for the Belgian Air force. These helmets (the shells) have been produced from "KEVLAR 49" with "EPOXY" matrix by using "Pressure Bag Molding System". The R&D, and the complete production line were constructed by Tama and is a specific Tama's know-how. The visor and other component are bought from the USA. These shells appeared to be of inferior quality and tend to break as they were made from two pieces. Production stopped in the early nineties.

The HGU-55/P is also used like the one from Amer Nave, he is an ace and ranked third in the IAF. His HGU-55/P is customized with dark blue paint with small white stars. The leather parts on the helmet are finished in black. Masks used are the MBU-5/P, MBU-12/P and the MS22001 (MBU-3/P) they all appear with J and T type bayonets.

Depending on the type of aircraft a PCU type torso harness is worn, on the Ahit (A-4 Skyhawk) however this is the later type MA-2. G-suits are of the CSU-3/P and CSU-13/P type. The life preserver that is combined with the PCU is the LPU-17/P. 

In 1984 Elbit Systems of Israel started the work on the DASH helmet (Display And Sight Helmet). This helmet is now known as the DASH Generation I Mk.222A and based upon the HGU-22/P helmet shell. In 1988, Elbit made the DASH Generation III prototype which saw production in 1989. From this design several slightly different models were made, depending on the aircraft it was mend for. The DASH III helmet is based on the HGU-55/P helmet shell.

The DASH is fully operational on the major Israeli fighters and is also used on the Ya’sur 2000 CH-53. The pilots in the CH-53 use the miniaturized HUD display inside the eyepiece of the pilot’s helmet, to show the most essential flight data, such as altitude and speed. On the fighters, the helmet is linked to the Phython air to air missile.

Other helmet types
Some planes or tasks ask for specific helmet types and equipment. The AH-1 Cobra helicopter pilots for instance are equipped with SPH-3 helmets with helmet mounted sights attached. The Hughes 500 helicopters are equipped with nearly the same armament as the Cobra but the pilots are wearing a totally different helmet. The helmet appears to be an HGU-22/P shell or Israelian BLH-1 (Combat Helicopter Aircrew Helmet) painted brown/green with a visor housing that includes a sighting system. 

This helmet without the sighting system is seen as a single visor version with other helicopter pilots like the ones on the UH-60 and SA365 helicopters. Apache pilots are wearing the IHADSS integrated helmet sighting systems that is considered a part of the helicopter. 

For night flying, the helicopter helmets can be equipped with the ANVIS 6 type night vision goggles. These are mounted with a large bracket that clamps over the visor housing. For fighter pilots, video footage shows a helmet with a single visor cover with an off center visor track. This allows the mounting of a NVG device on the helmet.

NBC threats are countered with a MBU-13/P full face mask worn together with a NBC protective coverall. The helmet is not know but might be of the HGU-39/P type.

Special thanks to Christian Brydges for his image of the Israelian pilot with DASH helmet, Ms. Elizabeth Harosh from TAMA Plastic Industry and the Israelian Airforce for their help.


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