According to a notification issued by the US State Department the sale of up to 18 CH-53K heavy-lift cargo helicopters to Israel has been cleared, in a transaction worth $3.4 billion. In a statement, the State Department said, “the United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability.”
The sale will aid “the Israeli Air Force’s ability to transport armored vehicles, personnel, and equipment to support distributed operations,” according to the statement. The statement also mentions that, “Israel will use the increased capability as a deterrence against regional threats and to strengthen its internal defenses,”. Despite the approval of the State Department, the notice does not imply that a contract has been signed or that talks have been completed. The notification begins a period of congressional review during which legislators can vote to stop the sale if they so choose. For its part, “Hamas” slammed the US-Israeli arms deal, claiming that it enables the Israeli occupation to continue its war against Palestinians and their sanctuaries, as well as harass and steal their lands.
The Israeli Ministry of Defense announced on 25 February, 2021 that the CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter, produced by Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, will be the IDF’s next transport helicopter, replacing the existing “Yas’ur” (CH-53) in its inventory.
The Israeli Air Force initially utilized the CH-53 “Yas’ur” in 1969, and has now been expressing their wish to replace older helicopter models for more than five years. The CH-53 Yas’ur helicopters, which are approaching their 50th anniversary, have been involved in a number of significant operations.
Yas’ur helicopters are used in Israel to support naval forces, to extinguish forest fires, for cross-border infiltration into the Middle East and in conjunction with special forces infiltration and reconnaissance vehicles. However, no matter how advanced it was in its time, it can no longer fully meet the demands of the Israeli Air Force as technology advances. As a result, Israel chose to replace its fleet of 22 CH-53D “Yas’ur” helicopters with CH-53K helicopters.
Israel also requested 60 T408-GE-400 engines as part of the agreement, in addition to crew training and maintenance. Six are spares and 54 are installed aboard helicopters. 36 integrated global positioning and inertial navigation systems with selective availability and anti-fraud modules, communications equipment, GAU-21 .50 caliber heavy machine guns, a mission planning system, spare and maintenance parts, support and test equipment are also included. If an agreement is reached, deliveries of the CH-53K to Israel will begin in 2024.
The CH-53K King Stallion is a large transport helicopter with a maximum take-off weight of roughly 40 tons and is known as the helicopter with the highest cargo capability ever built by the US government. On an exterior sling, the vehicle can transport more than 12 tons of cargo, and the cargo hold can house 55 passengers. The helicopter’s crew comprises of two to five personnel, including two pilots and three gunners who provide security. The CH-53K has a maximum range of 840 km and a top speed of 315 km/h. Active and passive protection systems are installed on the helicopter; a highly armored hull protects the crew and passengers from small arms fire, while active protection systems can defend the vehicle against missile damage.