Ministers approved Sunday a $2.4 billion purchase of Lockheed Martin CH-53K choppers for the Israel Air Force on Sunday, the first such purchase since Prime Minister Naftali Bennett took office in June.
The deal approved purchasing 10-15 helicopters, with the $2.4 billion coming from U.S. aid The price tag for the choppers is considered surprisingly high in light of a report at the beginning of the year that the $2.4 billion would buy Israel 18-20 helicopters.
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On Monday, officials explained that the original sum did not take into account the air force’s request for “premium” enhancements to the aircraft, or the annual maintenance costs.
The ministerial committee on military procurement, chaired by Bennett, approved the purchase after deliberations lasting less than an hour.
In February, the Defense Ministry and the army decided to purchase the Lockheed Martin choppers, which beat out Boeing’s older Chinook model after an extended bidding process.
The current purchase price includes about $100 million for each helicopter, and a supplement of $15-20 million per aircraft for the addition of electronic equipment and special weaponry. The total price also includes simulators, training and maintenance over a five-year period.
The air force preferred the Lockheed Martin helicopter over Boeing's Chinook, even if it meant purchasing fewer of them, due to its relatively long range and that it is an entirely new model. The CH-53Ks will replace Israel’s long-time Yasur helicopters, which were also manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
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In addition to the prime minister, the ministerial committee on military procurement consists of the defense, finance, justice and interior ministers as well as the foreign minister, Yair Lapid, who left for Europe on Sunday, and did not attend the committee meeting.