Israel will buy 12 CH-53K helicopters under formal deal with U.S.

Avatar for Dan ParsonsBy Dan Parsons | January 6, 2022

Estimated reading time 3 minutes, 39 seconds.

In yet another step in the ongoing process of upgrading the Israeli Defense Forces heavylift helicopters, the Ministry of Defense on New Year’s Eve formally signed a deal to buy $2 billion worth of Sikorsky CH-53Ks from the United States. 

Israel’s MoD announced Dec. 31 that it signed letter of agreement (LOA) with the U.S. government to purchase 12 King Stallion helicopters. Also approved was the purchase of two Boeing KC-46 aerial refueling tankers. 

Israeli Air Force CH-53K
A CH-53K decked out in Israeli Air Force livery. Sikorsky Photo

“The procurement of these platforms is part of a wider MOD program to strengthen the capabilities of the IDF and preparedness to face current and developing threats,” the Israeli MoD said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department in July approved the sale of up to 18 Ch-53Ks to Israel for $3.4 billion. That approval also included 60 General Electric T408-GE-400 engines — each King Stallion is powered by three, as opposed to the two in legacy CH-53D helicopters, on which the Yasur is based — navigation and communications equipment, weapons and associated gear and contractor services. 

A committee of Israeli government officials gave its stamp of approval for a $2.4 billion expenditure for between 10 and 15 CH-53Ks to replace the Israeli Air Force’s aging CH-53 “Yasur” helicopters in November. 

Israeli Minister of Defense Benny Gantz took to Twitter on Dec. 31 to applaud the formalization of the deal.

“Another brick in the IDF’s significant force building was laid today,” Ganz wrote, as translated from Hebrew. “The Department of Defense has signed an agreement with the U.S. administration to purchase ch-53k helicopters and two Boeing refueling aircraft.”

The CH-53K beat out Boeing’s CH-47F Chinook in February, when Defense Minister Benny Gantz selected the single-main-rotor 53K over the tandem rotor Chinook based on recommendations from Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of the General Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi and Defense Ministry Director General Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel. 

Israel is the first nation to buy the 53K outside the U.S. Sikorsky, which is owned by Lockheed Martin, also made the IDF’s legacy CH-53 “Yas’ur,” Israeli for petrel. That helicopter, which entered service in 1969, also beat out the Chinook based on requirements Israel established after the Six Day War for a heavy-lift helicopter.

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