An Israeli Air Force Sikorsky CH-53 helicopter flies during an aerial demonstration at a graduation ceremony for Israeli Air Force pilots at the Hatzerim air base in southern Israel, December 27, 2017..
(photo credit: REUTERS/AMIR COHEN)
The simulator of Lockheed Martin Corp.’s new CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter will make its first appearance in Israel in May, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
The helicopter is produced by Lockheed’s wholly owned subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.
“The CH-53K is the aircraft of the 21st century,” Elizabeth Parcella, director of Sikorsky’s international CH-53K program, said on Monday, adding that the helicopter's simulator will make its way to Israel after making its international debut at the Berlin Air Show.
Parcella and other representatives from Sikorsky and the US Marine Corps were in Israel this past week meeting with senior air force and Defense Ministry officials about the helicopter.
Israel is modernizing its heavy-lift helicopter fleet
, as its aging Yasur helicopters are set to be replaced by 2025 when they will be over 50 years old. According to Col. Hank Vanderborght, program manager for the Marine Corps’ heavy-lift helicopter, Israel is considering purchasing 24 CH-53Ks.
Two major American defense companies, Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky and Boeing – both with long histories of providing Israel with military equipment – are vying for the contract, which will pit Boeing’s veteran Ch-47 Chinook transport helicopter against Lockheed’s CH-53K King Stallion by Sikorsky, manufacturer of the Yasur.
According to Vanderborght, there are already 12 helicopters in various stages of production, with four expected to be ready by the end of the year.
The Marine Corps, he said, has already clocked 700 flight hours on the CH-53K, including testing its limits by flying at 207 knots (383 kph).
In November Brig.-Gen. Nir Nin-Nun, commander of air support and the helicopter division for the Israel Air Force, visited Patuxent River, Maryland, and took a test flight in the aircraft, Parcella said.
The CH-53K King Stallion, the successor to the CH-53, is powered by three engines, giving it a cruising speed of 170 knots (315 kph) and a range of 530 miles (852 km.). Operated by a crew of five – including two pilots and a combat crew of three gunners – it is fitted with self-defense weapons and ballistic protection, and also has crashworthy seats and retractable landing gear, significantly increasing aircraft and crew survivability.
“It is the most survivable aircraft,” said Vanderborght, explaining that the CH-53K is fully armored including inside the cabin itself and its seats.
The fuel tanks have also been designed to have inert gases pumped into them instead of allowing oxygen to build up inside, making them less likely to explode if hit by oncoming projectiles.
The CH-53K is fitted with digital fly-by-wire avionics with fully integrated flight and navigation displays, and has a mechanical diagnostic system which notifies maintenance crews when a part needs to be replaced. It can carry three times the amount of cargo of older helicopters.
According to Vanderborght, while pilots will “need to completely rethink how they fly,” it is a simple and straight-forward system that is similar to that of a modern commercial jetliner.
“What the Marine Corps is asking is exactly what we are delivering,” he said.
Frank Crisafulli, international sales director of heavy-lift helicopters at Sikorsky, stated that the purchase price of the CH-53K King Stallion is around $87 million. According to Crisafulli, while the initial cost may be higher than the one offered by Boeing, the aircraft will not need any upgrades for the next 40-50 years.
“We hope the Israel Air Force will choose this helicopter,” Parcella said.