Putting all speculation to rest, Israel’s Defense Ministry has finally picked the Lockheed Martin CH-53K ‘King Stallion’ heavy-lift helicopter for the country’s military. It was not an easy choice given that there was a strong contender in the form of the Boeing CH-47 Chinook transport chopper.
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The announcement comes three days after Israel finalized the procurement of two KC-46A Tankers from Boeing. The Jewish country is also planning to buy additional F-35I Adir fifth-generation stealth aircraft. These procurements are part of a larger effort to modernize the Israeli Air Force.
The procurement of the Sikorsky CH-53K ‘King Stallion’ will make the Israel Defense Forces the first foreign customer for the aircraft, which was originally developed for the US Marine Corps.
However, it is still unclear as to how many of this chopper Israel would purchase. Previous reports have hinted that Isreal would buy around 20-25 helicopters to replace its aging fleet of CH-53 Yasur helicopters.
“Today, Defense Minister Gantz accepted the recommendations presented by IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi, & Defense Ministry Director-General Maj. Gen. (Res.), Amir Eshel, to select Lockheed Martin CH53K helicopters as the IDF’s new heavy-lift aircraft,” a Defense Ministry tweet read.
Minister Gantz: “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.” 2/2 pic.twitter.com/liAx136sTq
— Ministry of Defense (@Israel_MOD) February 25, 2021
“All details, including the number of helicopters requested, will be brought to the approval of the Ministerial Committee for Procurement as soon as possible,” Israel’s Defense Ministry told news agency Reuters.
“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,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.
The CH-53K King Stallion
The Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion is a heavy-lift cargo helicopter currently being produced by Lockheed Martin for the US Marine Corps (USMC). The design features three 7,500 shp (5,590 kW) engines, new composite rotor blades, and a wider aircraft cabin than previous CH-53 variants.
The aircraft would be the largest and the heaviest helicopter in service with the US military, for which the USMC plans to acquire 200 of the type. The new CH-53K uses three powerful GE T408 engines, surpassing the capability of its predecessor CH-53E by carrying nearly double the external payload of 27,000 lb (12,200 kg) over the same radius of 110 nmi (204 km). CH-53K’s payload reaches a maximum of 35,000 lb (15,900 kg).
However, in terms of capacity, the helicopter still falls short of the legendary Mi-26, a Soviet-era helicopter. Developed in the 1970s, Mi-26 is said to be the largest and heaviest military helicopter to ever go into serial production. It can carry 20,000 kg of cargo, compared to about 16,000 kg maximum for the new American CH-53K King Stallion.