Updated: On February 25, 2021 Defense Minister, Benny Gantz Lt. General (Res.) accepted the recommendations presented by IDF Chief of the General Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, and Defense Ministry Director-General, Maj. Gen. (Res.), Amir Eshel, to select Lockheed Martin Sikorsky CH-53K Yasour helicopters as the IDF’s new heavy-lift aircraft, as part of the IDF’s “Tnufa” (Momentum), multi-year plan. These will replace the “Yassur” helicopters employed by the IAF since the late 1960s.

The decision was made following a professional assessment that included test flights in CH-53K, CH-47K, and CV-22 considered for the Yasour replacement, as well as a thorough examination of the various alternatives in terms of engineering, technological, maintenance, and other considerations.

The concluding discussion, chaired by the Minister of Defense, was attended by IDF Chief of the General Staff, Director General of the Ministry of Defense, IAF Commander, Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, and Head of the IDF’s Planning Directorate, Maj. Gen. Tomer Bar.

On July 30, 2021 the U.S. State Department approved the Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Israel of CH-53K Heavy Lift Helicopters with Support and related
equipment for an estimated cost of $3.4 billion. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale. Israel has requested to buy up to 18 CH-53K Helicopters; up to sixty (60) T408-GE-400 Engines (54 installed, 6 spares); and up to thirty-six (36) Embedded Global Positioning System/Inertial Navigation Systems (EGI) with Selective Availability/Anti-Spoofing Module (SAASM).

Israel has plans to acquire up to eight KC-46A Pegasus aerial tankers to replace the current fleet of Re’em flying tankers modified by IAI from B707-720 aircraft. Illustration: Boeing

The decision follows the approval of the procurement of two Tanker jets and the signing of a Letter of Agreement for two Boeing KC-46A Pegasus aircraft. In the next phase, two additional tankers will be acquired, out of a total of up to eight that will make up the future fleet. In addition to the tankers and helicopters, Israel is expected to place an order for the third squadron of F-35 Adir stealth fighters from Lockheed Martin, along with advanced munitions. All programs are conducted with US Military channels, utilizing Foreign Military Financing (FMF). First deliveries are expected by the middle of the decade.

Germany has also considered buying the CH-53K but the German MOD canceled the plan in September, due to excessive cost. The Israeli decision may trigger a German reconsideration if Israel, Germany, and the US Defense Ministries could agree on aligning production schedules and support costs to reduce costs. The US has already committed to a 200-aircraft program of record for the U.S. Marine Corps. Israel hasn’t decided on the number of helicopters to be procured. The IAF currently operates 23 CH-53 Yasour 2025, some of the helicopters have been refurbished and upgraded several times since their introduction to the IAF in 1969. Germany had plans to buy 40 heavy-lift helicopters. These helicopters would have replaced the 72 CH-53GA/GS operated by the German Air Force since 1969.