Jerusalem is seeking US approval for the support package to maintain eight SH-60F Sea-Hawk Helicopters to Israel be delivered from US Navy surplus to support the Israeli Navy security operations in the Mediterranean Sea. The Israel Navy currently operates French produced HH-65 Dolphin helicopters built by Airbus Helicopters, procured via the USA in 1983. The new helicopters will initially work with the four new Magen Class, Meko-100 corvettes, Israel will receive from Germany by 2020. The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) confirmed the State Department’s approval for the planned transfer in its notification to Congress earlier this month.
The original request for eight airframes was submitted and approved in February 2015. The recent announcement relates to the related equipment and support package. According to the package list, Israel requested 12 T-700 GE401C engines, a universal (navalized) version of the T700 powerplant. Each SH-60F uses two such engines. Of the 12 engines ordered, ten will be installed in five of the eight airframes, and two maintained as spare engines. The remaining three airframes could be maintained for future service or are likely to be cannibalized for spare parts.
The helicopters will operate on these Corvettes will be committed to secure the Leviathan Natural Gas Field located within Israel’s Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ), about 60 nautical miles off the East Mediterranean coast. The SH-60F helicopters will be used onboard these new frigates to patrol and protect these gas fields as well as other areas under threat. The US agency assesses the support package for the eight airframes at $300 million.
The SH-60F entered operational service with the US Navy in 1986. The helicopter primarily serves as primary antisubmarine warfare (ASW) and Search and Rescue (SAR) aircraft. The SH-60F can carry offensive weapons, primarily on ASW missions. These include Mk 46, Mk 50, or Mk 54 torpedoes. It cal also carry various fuselage-mounted machine guns, for self-defense. Some of the weapons deployed by the Israel Air Force have already been tested on board the SH-60 helicopters, these include the Delilah loitering weapon and hellfire guided missile.