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Israel chooses CH-53K King Stallion as its new transport helicopter

Defense Minister Gantz says aircraft essential for a wide range of routine and combat missions

Illustrative: A Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion flies during the ILA Berlin Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. (Michael Sohn/AP)
Illustrative: A Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion flies during the ILA Berlin Air Show in Berlin, Germany, April 25, 2018. (Michael Sohn/AP)

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.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz visits the Atlit naval base in northern Israel on January 5, 2021. (Screen capture)

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.

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