Israel Upgrading Its Heavy-Lift Helo Fleet With CH-53K Buy

The Israeli Air Force is replacing its fleet of decades-old CH-53D Yasur helicopters with a dozen CH-53K King Stallions, Lockheed Martin said.

An artist rendering of a CH-53K helicopter for Israel. [Courtesy: Lockheed Martin]

Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) is set to produce the first four CH-53K King Stallion helicopters recently ordered by Israel to upgrade its fleet of aging heavy-lift helicopters, the company said.

Under the purchase deal signed in late December, Israel ordered 12 of the CH-53K heavy lift helicopters built by Lockheed Martin's Sikorsky Aircraft, making the country the first international customer for the new aircraft.

The buy, which is facilitated by a U.S. Navy Foreign Military Sales agreement, is aimed at updating the Israeli Air Force's fleet of nearly two dozen CH-53D Yasur heavy lift helicopters that have been in service for about 50 years. Under the terms outlined in the Letter of Acceptance signed December 30, first aircraft deliveries of the dozen helicopters will begin in 2025 and IAF has an option to buy an additional six aircraft, Lockheed Martin said.

"In addition to the aircraft, the agreement includes T408-GE-400 engines; facilities study, design and construction; spare and repair parts; support and test equipment; publications and technical documentation; aircrew and maintenance training; U.S. government and contractor engineering, technical and logistics support services; and other related elements of logistics and program support," according to Naval Air Systems Command.

The Marines will use them, too.

The new CH-53K is designed for the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) as a sea-based, long-range replacement for its CH-53E Super Stallion, and capable of lifting nearly 14 tons with a mission radius of 110 nautical miles. The USMC CH-53K program entered Initial Operational Test and Evaluation last year, and that’s set to conclude this year.

Production of the USMC's planned buy of 200 aircraft is already underway, and five CH-53Ks have already been delivered to Marine Corps Air Station New River in North Carolina. Four more are expected to be delivered this year, Lockheed Martin said earlier this month.

“The CH-53K helicopter provides advanced capabilities allowing Marines to get anywhere in the world where the mission requires heavy-lift logistics support,” Deputy Commandant for Aviation Lt. Gen. Mark R. Wise said about the aircraft last fall. “This helicopter is a much safer aircraft because it can maneuver in low visibility environments. It will forward deploy Marines quickly and effectively.”

The aircraft is also expected to be a game changer for the Corps on the maintenance front, according to its manufacturer.

"The CH-53K aircraft is equipped with Integrated Vehicle Health Management System (IVHMS), which will transition the U.S. Marines from fixed interval to on-condition maintenance resulting in lower maintenance crew hours, reduced life cycle costs and increased aircraft readiness," Lockheed Martin said.

USMC first fleet deployment of the CH-53K is planned for Fiscal Year 2024, NAVAIR said.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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