The Lockheed Martin CH-53K transport helicopter. (Lockheed Martin) (Lockheed Martin)
Sikorsky helicopter

The new CH-53K King Stallion will be an easy transition for air force pilots and crews who already fly the earlier model of the same chopper.

By Yakir Benzion, United With Israel

Israel announced it chose the Lockheed Martin CH-53K helicopter to be the Israel Air Force’s new heavy lift aircraft, replacing its aging fleet of old model Sikorsky choppers that have been in use since the late 1960s.

The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion is currently being manufactured by Lockheed Martin, which bought Sikorsky in 2015 for $9 billion, and is the largest and heaviest helicopter in use by the U.S. military.

Earlier this month, Israel’s cabinet approved a huge $9 billion purchase that will see the Israel Air Force equip itself with new aerial refueling planes and transport helicopters. The strategic acquisition comes out of the $38 billion U.S. military aid package signed by the Obama administration that covers the decade between 2018 and 2028.

Israel will get up six new Boeing KC-46 state-of-the-art giant tankers for mid-air refueling and additional F-35 and F-15 fighter squadrons, and it is expected the IAF will receive at least 20 new CH-53K helicopters.

“It is essential to the IDF’s ability to carry out a wide range of operational activities. The new helicopter is adapted to the [IAF’s] operational requirements and to the challenges of the changing battlefield,” said Defense Minister Benny Gantz.

“The decision to purchase new heavy-lift helicopters for the IAF, after decades, is a significant step in progressing the IDF’s build-up. It is also essential to the IDF’s ability to carry out a wide range of operational activities. The new helicopter is adapted to the [IAF’s] operational requirements and to the challenges of the changing battlefield.”

The Israeli military reached a verdict after a long professional assessment that included test flights in all the different helicopters that were proposed, as well as a thorough examination of the various alternatives in terms of engineering, technology, maintenance and other considerations.

The decision to go with the CH-53K was influenced by the fact that it is a much newer, more powerful version of the same CH-53D helicopter the Israel Air Force has been using for decades, meaning it will be an easy transition for the pilots and ground crews who are already familiar with the model. The changeover can therefore be done with a minimal amount of disruption and additional training to learn the nuances of the new version of the massive chopper.

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