Tel Aviv: Israeli Air Force (IAF) Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Eyal Grinboim visited Naval Air Station, Patuxent River in February for a program update and flight on the CH-53K heavy lift helicopter. The IAF last year selected the CH-53K to replace the force’s old CH-53.
Grinboim and his staff met with Maj. Gen. Gregory Masiello, program executive officer for air anti-submarine warfare, assault and special mission programs (PEO(A)). Masiello and Col. Jack Perrin, program manager, heavy lift program office (PMA-261), gave the IAF group an overview of the CH-53K program and a status update on current tests and production.
The visit included an opportunity to co-pilot the aircraft. US Marine Corps Lt. Col. Luke Frank, pilot and officer in charge of CH-53K detachment for Marine Operational Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VMX-1), provided pre-flight safety instructions before leading the group in a flight. The flight demonstrated the power and capabilities of the CH-53K aircraft.
Grinboim’s visit to the program office was the first since Israel’s decision last year to purchase the CH-53K. The IAF signed a Letter of Offer and Acceptance on December 30, 2021 with the US government. The agreement is for purchase of 12 CH-53K aircraft with first deliveries planned in 2025.
As the long-range logistic support backbone for the US Marine Corps, the CH-53K will support Israeli special operations programs first, as well as provide the Israeli Defence Forces with a platform that has the speed, safety and gross weight capability to support all of its missions, including troop and cargo transport, and search and rescue.
The CH-53K program is on track to achieve Initial Operational Capability in 2022. VMX-1 completed all initial operational test and evaluation scheduled events, including a real-world, non-test event recovering a 14,000 pound downed Navy H-60 from a 12,000 feet high zone in the mountains of Northern California. The CH-53K will transport Marines, heavy equipment and supplies during ship-to-shore movement in support of amphibious assault and subsequent operations ashore.
The Israeli Air Force (IAF) has completed the list of Israel developed systems that will be installed on the new CH-53K that will be supplied by the US in the coming years.
The Israel Ministry of Defence has signed an agreement (LOA) with the U.S. government to acquire 12 Lockheed Martin CH-53K helicopters and two Boeing KC-46 refuelling aircraft.
As with any aerial platform acquired by the IAF it is equipped with Israeli developed systems aimed at giving these fixed wing and rotorcraft an operational edge. The list of systems the IAF want to have on the new CH-53 K has been prepared. The list is highly classified but in the past it include EW and protection systems.
Israeli sources said that the CH-53 will be manufactured to the specifications of the US marines and only then the Israeli systems will be installed. The open question now is whether to install the systems in the US or after the heavy helicopters will arrive in Israel.
According to the predicted schedule, the first CH-53 K will be delivered to the IAF in 2025. Sources here say that it seems that the IAF will prefer to install the locally made systems in Israel.