Battle of the CH-47F vs CH-53K heats up in Israel
The Israeli Air Force's (IAF's) quest to find a replacement for its ageing CH-53 Yas'ur heavy-lift transport helicopter took a significant step forward with the test-flying of one contender.
IAF pilots began test-flying the Boeing CH-47 in the US on 27 January in what is expected to be one of the final steps of the long evaluation process to select a replacement for the force's old CH-53s.
The IAF has already test-flown the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion.
The selection of a replacement has become even more urgent following the loss of one CH-53 in November 2019. While the CH-53 helicopter was completely destroyed in the blaze after its engine caught fire following the emergency landing, all 11 soldiers from the elite Shaldag commando unit and two pilots on board the aircraft made it out unhurt.
Boeing is offering the Chinook CH-47F Block II, in a configuration that in many ways is similar to the G variant operated by US SF.
According to Israeli military sources, the version offered to the IAF will be a hybrid between the CH-47F and MH-47G but with larger fuel tanks, similar to the model currently flying in Canada, and an aerial refuelling probe.
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In recent discussions, Israel Defense Forces ground forces commanders have expressed their support for the CH-47, although the final decision remains in the hands of the IAF.
The other option is the CH-53K, which Sikorsky is also offering to the German Air Force for its new heavy-lift transport helicopter programme in a joint bid with Rheinmetall. The CH-53 is also squaring off against the CH-47 in that competition.
The CH-53K will also be equipped with an air-to-air refuelling capability while the cargo bay design enables the aircraft to accommodate the same air transport pallets used in fixed-wing transport aircraft for cargo-handling interoperability.
Israel’s current fleet of CH-53 Yas'ur helicopters is expected to remain in service until 2028.
The aircraft have already been extensively upgraded and, in recent months, due to a severe lack of spare parts, the US has transferred five grounded CH-53s to Israel for cannibalisation.
The final selection may yet be delayed again due to political turmoil that took Israel into a third election in less than a year.
However, a source close to the selection process said on 27 January that Israel cannot afford to delay the selection and ‘with the emerging threats on different fronts, these advanced helicopters are crucial’.
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