The Defense Ministry has signed an agreement with the US government to acquire twelve CH-53K helicopters and two additional Boeing KC-46 tanker aircraft.
The CH-53K is the most powerful helicopter ever built by the US government and will replace the IAF current fleet of modified CH-53D Yasur helicopters, which have been flying for over 50 years.
The signed agreement states first deliveries of the aircraft are planned for 2025. In addition to the aircraft, the agreement includes T408-GE-400 engines; facilities study, design and construction; spare and repair parts; support and test equipment; publications and technical documentation; aircrew and maintenance training; US government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics and program support.
As the long-range logistic support backbone for the US Marine Corps, the CH-53K will support Israeli special operations programs first, as well as provide the Israeli Defense Forces with a platform that has the speed, safety and gross weight capability to support all of its missions, including troop and cargo transport, and search and rescue.
The decision wraps up a multi-year negotiation process. In the end, the King Stallion offered more capabilities and the latest technology compared to the competition. During this period, PMA-261 hosted multiple visits by IAF leadership as they compared aircraft, including orientation flights and flight evaluations with IAF pilots and acquisitions professionals.
The CH-53K King Stallion program is in the Initial Operational Test and Evaluation stage and is on track to achieve Initial Operational Capability early next year, with first fleet deployment planned for FY2024.
Another agreement was signed for the procurement of an additional two Boeing KC-46 refueling aircraft, to add to the two already purchased.
According to The Jerusalem Post, the US State Department approved the possible sale of up to eight KC-46 tanker aircraft and related equipment to Israel last March, marking the first time that America has allowed Jerusalem to buy new tankers.
The KC-46 will replace the IAF current fleet of Ra’am (Boeing 707) tankers, that are former civilian aircraft adapted by Israel for military uses such as aerial refueling for fighter jets, as well as its fleet of transport aircraft.
“The procurement of these platforms is part of a large-scale program undertaken by the Defense Ministry together with the IDF over the last year and a half, with the aim of strengthening the IDF’s capabilities, force buildup and preparedness to face existing and future threats,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The procurement plans include the purchase of a new fleet of F-35 aircraft, refueling aircraft, CH-53K helicopters, advanced air munition, air defense systems, and new marine and land platforms as well as cyber systems.”
Photo credit: Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin Company