Israel has purchased logistics and airworthiness support for its CH-53K King Stallion heavy-lift helicopter fleet to accommodate the latest configuration changes.

Under an $18.4m (NIS68.8m) Foreign Military Sales (FMS) contract announced on 8 January 2024, by the US Department of Defense (DoD), Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, will perform the appropriate services as the original equipment manufacturer of the 50-year-old rotorcraft.

The contractor will complete its work in Stratford, Connecticut and is expected to be completed in February 2026.

According to intelligence from GlobalData, a leading data and analytics consultancy, the Israeli Air Force operates 22 CH-53D helicopters, acquired between 1969 and 1991. Israel designated the platform “Yas’ur” as opposed to the US designation “Stallion”.

In 2021, the Government increased its fleet with an order for 18 CH-53K units under an FMS agreement worth $3.4bn. Another deal was made later under a joint procurement deal with the US Marine Corps for a total of 35 platforms worth $2.7bn in August 2023; eight of which are due be delivered to the Israeli fleet in 2026.

Sikorsky originally designed and built the CH-53K according to the exacting standards of the US Marine Corps. For that reason, the platform serves as a land and sea based logistics connector. This explains why the DoD issued the contract as a navy deal, with the contracting activity being the Naval Air Systems Command.

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By GlobalData

The helicopter offers flexible configurations for optimal mission effectiveness. It can carry 463 pallets and High-Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicles (Humvees) or up to 30 troops at a time.

CH-53K carrying US personnel. Credit: Lockheed Martin.

Sustaining Israeli helicopters during the war against Hamas

The Jewish Institute for National Security of America, a Washington-based, pro-Israel think tank, calls for the US Government to sustain the Israeli Defence Forces so that it can continue to wage its campaign against Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that mustered a surprise attack against Israel on 7 October 2023.

“Israeli officials were very appreciative of the steady American supply of weapons, but they made it clear they needed more,” Michael Makovsky, the organisation’s President, stated.

“For instance, the Israeli Air Force requires thousands more [ammunition] to maximise battlefield effectiveness and limit collateral damage… Israel also needs more helicopters—Boeing Apaches and Sikorsky CH-53Ks—and F-15 jets.”

Meanwhile, the US Government is under pressure to prevent the war from spilling elsewhere in the Middle East and to protect Palestinians in Gaza as Israeli forces move south of the strip.

In any case, given the CH-53K’s latest configuration changes, users such as Israel appear attentive to the DoD’s airworthiness policy drafted in 2013, which states:

“All aircraft and air systems owned, leased, operated, used, designed, or modified by DoD must have completed an airworthiness assessment in accordance with Military Department policy.

“The airworthiness assessment provides DoD personnel and DoD contractors the appropriate level of safety of flight and risk management adapted to DoD-unique mission requirements.”

Edit note: This article has been updated to reflect Israel’s current operation of the CH-53D variant of the heavy-lift helicopter, and its coming acquisition of the ‘K’ model in the coming years.