The Israeli Ministry of Defense has received approval to spend over $2 billion on a fleet of Sikorsky CH-53K heavy-lift helicopters.
A committee of government officials in charge of the defense budget approved the $2.4 billion contract in a meeting on Nov. 28, according to multiple Israeli media sites. According to Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post, unexpectedly the meeting lasted less than an hour.
The agreement is for 10 to 15 helicopters to replace the Israeli Air Force’s antiquated CH-53 “Yasur” helicopters, according to the Ministry of Defense’s recommendation.
Defense Minister Benny Gantz chose the single-main-rotor CH-53K over the tandem-rotor CH-47F Chinook in February, in accordance with the recommendations from Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi and Defense Ministry Director-General Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel.
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In July, the US Department Of state approved a $3.4 billion sale to Israel of up to 18 CH-53Ks. 60 General Electric T408-GE-400 engines, navigation and communications equipment, armaments and supporting gear, and contractor services were also approved. Each King Stallion is powered by three engines, as opposed to two in older CH-53D helicopters, on which the Yasur is based.
“The proposed sale will improve the Israeli Air Force’s capability to transport armored vehicles, personnel, and equipment to support distributed operations,” according to the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency
Israel expects to use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its defense. Moreover, Israel will have no difficulty absorbing this equipment into its armed forces
Israel is the first country outside of the United States to purchase the 53K. Sikorsky, which is owned by Lockheed Martin, also produced the IDF’s historic CH-53 “Yas’ur,” which means “petrel” in Hebrew. That aircraft, which entered service in 1969, likewise outperformed the Chinook in terms of Israel’s post-Six Day War needs for a heavy-lift helicopter.