The Israel Air Force has chosen Lockheed Martin’s CH-53K as its new transport helicopter, according to an announcement made by the Defense Ministry on Thursday. The new helicopter will replace the CH-53 Yas’ur helicopters which have been serving the Air Force since the late 1960s.
After a delay lasting several years, and as the current fleet became increasingly outdated, Defense Minister Benny Gantz accepted the recommendations of IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi, Air Force commander Amikam Norkin, and the Director-General of the Defense Ministry, Amir Eshel, choosing this helicopter as the one which will lead IDF missions over the coming decades.
The decision was made after thorough examinations by a professional team, which included flying all the candidate helicopters, as well as studying the different aspects of all the alternatives including their engineering, technology, maintenance and more. All the details, including the numbers requested, will be brought for the approval of a ministerial committee for acquisitions in the near future.
The CH-53K Sikorsky, made by Lockheed Martin, is similar in shape to the Yas’ur, but air force sources say this is a completely different helicopter in terms of capabilities and performance. The CH-53K is equipped with advanced systems which enable it to fly in extreme conditions.
It can also carry a heavier load than the competitors that were examined. The price of this helicopter is $100 million, which is more than competing helicopters, with its performance better meeting the Air Force’s and the IDF’s needs. The army’s technical infrastructure will be able to make adaptations better in this newer model, according to sources in the Air Force.
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The main competitor to the chosen chopper Boeing’s two-rotor CH-47F Chinook. This is a cheaper helicopter, but the decision was made based on compatibility with operational needs and capabilities that were adapted to the Air Force’s requirements, the sources said.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz said that the "decision to buy new transport helicopters after several decades is a significant step in building the IDF’s power, and is vital for carrying out a wide range of routine and combat operational missions. The new helicopter is adapted to our operational needs and to the challenges of the changing battlefield.”