Israel has signed two agreements worth $3.1 billion with the US government to purchase 12 Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky CH-53K helicopters and two Boeing KC-46 refueling aircraft.
According to the Israeli Defense Ministry, the procurement is part of a broader program to strengthen the capabilities and preparedness of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to address current and emerging threats.
“These procurement agreements are significant milestones in the IDF’s force buildup processes,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, as quoted by The Jerusalem Post. “We continue to strengthen our capabilities and to change and adapt our air force to face future challenges both near and far.”
As early as February of last year, the Defense Ministry had already decided to acquire squadrons over Boeing’s CH-47. The US State Department also approved the possible sale of KC-46 tanker aircraft to Israel last March.
The new helicopters will replace the Sikorsky CH-53 Yasur heavy-lift helicopters and Ra’am (Boeing 707) tanker aircraft used by the Israeli military since 1969. The first batch is expected to arrive in 2026.
Modified With Israeli Weaponry
Designed to lift nearly 14 tons (12,700 kilograms) of payload, the CH-53K helicopter will reportedly expand the air force’s ability to move equipment more rapidly using its state-of-the-art technologies.
The heavy-lift helicopter is also equipped with a fly-by-wire control system and three engines, capable of flying up to 110 nautical miles at a maximum speed of 172 miles (276 kilometers) per hour.
Meanwhile, the KC-46 aircraft features a refueling boom driven by a fly-by-wire control system and is capable of multi-point simultaneous aerial refueling.
Powered by two high-bypass turbofans, the aircraft can carry a palletized load of up to 65,000 pounds (29,400 kilograms) of cargo. It is also equipped with self-protection, defensive, and communication features, making it more survivable in a contested environment.
The CH-53Ks and KC-46s will be modified with high-powered weaponry made in Israel.
With a reported price of $100 million per aircraft, the agreement will include simulators, training, and maintenance over five years.