The IDF is set to purchase 20 new helicopters from the United States, Walla! reported on Monday.
By 2025, the IDF plans to phase out 24 Apache "Patan" helicopters, following the example of other armies around the world. These helicopters will be replaced by new acquisitions from the US.
According to IDF sources, the Air Force will soon have to make decisions according to the new state budget and will have to decide between a number of possible options. The IDF will be able to buy old "Delta" Apaches that were put out of order in the US and upgrade them, or buy new Apache helicopters of the "Echo" model, alternatively.
Another option would be to wait and buy Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) helicopters, which are still in production and will only be available at the beginning of the next decade.
The IDF has to make decisions, while Ukraine war opens possibilities
According to estimates, the Ukraine war opens a special window of opportunity for Israel: The US could provide F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine, but won't give them new combat helicopters which could fall into Russian hands and so endanger secret technologies.
Because of this, the opportunity for a trade could arise, in which the IDF Air Force's older "Patan" Apaches could be transferred to Ukraine, while Israel would receive the "Echo" Apaches in exchange.
Sources in the Air Force say that the right move would not be to wait for the production of the "FARA" helicopters, but instead to buy a fleet of 20 "Echo" Apaches soon.
These helicopters possess far greater operational capabilities than the helicopters the Air Force has now. They are faster and stronger, and their radar enables operation in greater and more precise ranges.
They can also carry 16 missiles and 76 rockets, and their nose has an upgraded cannon. Poland, Morocco and Australia are also interested to buy the "Echo" Apaches, according to foreign reports, and Germany even began their purchase.
Combat helicopters fill an important role in the IDF
"There are no more spare parts for the 'Patan' helicopters, so they need to be taken out of service," said a senior official in the IDF and added, "We have limited resources, but the combat helicopters are still relevant to the battlefield, especially in assisting the ground forces, special operations and even for the current activity of the navy."
A senior officer in the IDF reserves who specializes in combat helicopters and procurement processes, said: "We have seen the involvement of combat helicopters in recent operations in the Gaza Strip.
"There are tasks that remotely manned aircraft cannot perform without being seen or heard, such as flying at low altitudes and launching missiles far from the target. Having a rational person at the front is a significant bonus because the battlefield often changes and quick decisions must be made."
At the beginning of this year, the Air Force began procedures for the purchase and maintenance of fighter and transport aircraft, before parting with old fighter aircraft and helicopters.
Earlier in May, the Defense Ministry and the Air Force submitted a request to the US Department of Defense for information on new F-15 aircraft, as part of a future process to acquire a new F-I15 squadron. The Air Force intends to integrate into the plane improvements regarding the weapons, radar, and electronic warfare systems, to expand the range of operation and more - through systems made in Israel to upgrade the plane and give it superiority over other planes of this model."