The Defense Ministry announced Thursday the selection of the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion as the new transport helicopter of the Israel Defense Forces.
The ministry said the US-made helicopter will replace the IDF’s fleet of CH-53 Sea Stallions, which have been in service since the 1960s.
“The decision to purchase new Sa’ar transport helicopters for the Air Force, after decades, is a significant step in building the IDF’s power, and essential for performing a wide range of operational tasks as routine and in combat,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said in a statement.
Gantz decided on the helicopter based on the recommendations of IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi and Defense Ministry Director-General Amir Eshel, Channel 12 News reported. Eshel is a former commander of the Israeli Air Force.
The Defense Ministry had been wavering between the Boeing CH-47 Chinook and Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion heavy transport helicopters to replace its 50-year-old CH-53 helicopters, whose Israeli version is named Yassur. When Gantz came into his post last year, he ordered the military to reconsider purchasing the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, which can function as both an airplane and a helicopter, giving the military — particularly special forces — greater flexibility.
That sent the ministry back to the drawing board and significantly extended the selection process.
The purchase will be part of an NIS 9 billion ($2.74 billion) arms deal with the US, approved by a ministerial committee earlier this month, to supply the Israeli Air Force with numerous aircraft and munitions.
The deal will allow the military to purchase F-35 and F-15 fighter jets, heavy transport helicopters, refueling planes and other equipment deemed critical by the military, like interceptor missiles and advanced bombs for aircraft.