IAF delegation in the US to evaluate Lockheed Martin’s new helicopter

The IAF plans to buy some 20 new heavy-lift helicopters—in other words, one squadron—to replace the current CH-53 Sea Stallion squadron at the Tel Nof Base

By
September 22, 2019 23:39
2 minute read.
CH-53 helicopter

CH-53 helicopter. (photo credit: GUY ASHASH/IAF)

An Israel Air Force delegation will arrive in the US this week for the latest flight evaluation of Lockheed Martin’s latest heavy-lift helicopter, the CH-53K.

The five-man delegation, which will stay in the US until Thursday, includes a flight mechanic, project manager and three pilots. The delegation will take several flights on the CH-53K.

First used by the IAF in 1969, the Yas’ur helicopters are the air force’s primary helicopter used regularly to transport soldiers and equipment. They have also taken part in a wide variety of missions, including secret operations as well as search and rescue missions, and are used regularly to transport soldiers and equipment.

While the aging helicopters have been upgraded with 20 new electronic systems and missile defense, the IAF will still need to replace them by 2025 when they will be more than 50 years old.

According to defense industry sources, it would take 36 months to deliver the new helicopters after the IAF signs a contract with Lockheed.

In March the annual State Comptroller report recommended that the IAF replace the aging aircraft as soon as possible, because “prolonging the life of the Yas’ur is liable to endanger human life, and may have significant operational implications and substantial maintenance costs.”

The air force should “consider purchasing the Yas’ur replacement option early so that it will be as close as possible to the date on which the memorandum of understanding with the United States is implemented,” the report added.

The IAF plans to buy some 20 new heavy-lift helicopters – in other words, one squadron – to replace the current CH-53 Sea Stallion squadron at the Tel Nof Base. The two options in the running are Lockheed Martin Sikorsky’s CH-53K King Stallion, the same maker of the Yas’ur, and Boeing’s Ch-47F Chinook helicopter.

Both Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky and Boeing have long histories of providing Israel with military equipment, and are vying for the contract that will pit Boeing’s veteran twin-engine, tandem-rotor transport helicopter against Lockheed’s new CH-53K King Stallion.

An IAF delegation will be going back to the US for a flight evaluation of the CH-47F and to meet with pilots and instructors following the Jewish holidays.

A defense industry sources told The Jerusalem Post that if Blue and White leader Benny Gantz is appointed as prime minister, he may want to reassess the possible purchases.

But the longer it takes to sign a contract to replace the Yas’ur, the possibility of a failure in the platform increases.

“A helicopter crashing with so many soldiers would be a strategic catastrophe for Israel,” the source added.


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