26 Jan 2021 (Israel) – Lockheed Martin and Boeing are competing for the contract to replace the Sikorsky CH-53 fleet for the Israeli airforce (IAF).

Some air forces, particularly Germany, are closely watching the Israeli competition. "The IAF is performing combat missions every day and its selection will have an impact of those of other airforces," a source told FrontLine.

The IAF has explained that the need for a new heavy-lift helicopter is very urgent, but the political chaos in Israel, with the fourth general election in less than two years to be held in March, has stalled the selection process.

"All the relevant data is in the hands of the special government acquisition committee and they can make the selection," a senior source told FrontLine.

The pressure comes especially from what is generally called the Israel Defense Force (IDF) "Depth Command" or in other words, the special units that perform operations far away from Israel.

Lockheed Marin is offering its Sikorsky CH-53K and Boeing is promoting a version of its CH-47 helicopter to fulfill this requirement.

The Boeing MH-47G is a special operations variant of the CH-47 Chinook multi-role, heavy-lift helicopter. It is in service with the US Army Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOC). The first new-build MH-47G helicopter was delivered to the USASOC in September 2014. The MH-47G is used in heavy-lift missions such as the transportation of troops, ammunition, vehicles, equipment, fuel and supplies, as well as civil and humanitarian relief missions. The helicopter can conduct long-range missions at low level, in adverse weather conditions day or night.

According to Israeli military sources, the CH-47 version being offered by Boeing will be a hybrid between the Chinook F and Chinook G but with larger fuel tanks, similar to the model currently flying in Canada. The cockpit is expected to be fully computerized and will feature unique systems for the G-type.

According to Lockheed Martin, the CH-53K is a smart aircraft with built-in sensors. "Following our commercial helicopter sustainment model, the aircraft can analyze itself. This also allows for 100% fault detection and 98% fault isolation, meaning the aircraft can tell you when problems arise 100% of the time and where the problems are 98% of the time. This is all predictive with artificial intelligence. The aircraft continues to learn, driving maintenance costs down," a senior Lockheed Martin official said.

The IAF is expected to purchase a fleet of at least 25 new heavy lift helicopters.

– Arie Egozi (Israel)