The IDF is seeking to replace its tried and true Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion (Yas'ur) helicopters, and will likely choose the state-of-the-art Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopters—an improved and advanced version of the old Sea Stallion and an average price of about $87 million per helicopter.
IAF personnel are currently testing the CH-53K alongside other heavy transport helicopters that may succeed the Yas'ur—which has been used by the IDF since 1969—in the second half of the next decade.
The King Stallion, which is designed to transport dozens of fighters and heavy weaponry to operations on the front or deep inside enemy territory, can carry two heavy SUVs in its cabin. It also has three hooks for carrying cargo on ropes—unlike the Yas'ur, which only has one.
It can also be refueled mid-air and has cutting-edge autopilot and landing features, enabling its pilot to touch down almost without using his hands.
In total, the helicopter can fly up to 220 kilometers without refueling at a high temperature (39 degrees Celsius) and with a full weight of 18 tons, more than twice the carrying capacity of the Yas'ur.
Its speed, unburdened, can reach 340 kph.
Sikorsky is expected to announce the new helicopter as operational in 2019. If chosen by the IAF, the Air Force will probably purchase 24 helicopters (one squadron) and will also purchase a small number of Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey helicopters, a multi-mission aircraft with vertical takeoff and landing capabilities.
The price for the King Stallion is considered relatively high, as the helicopter is brand new and will not need any future upgrades or systems replacement throughout its life, some 50 years. In addition, its maintenance is considered relatively inexpensive.
Its financing, if purchased by Israel, is expected to come mostly from the US government's aid budget to Israel, $38 billion over the decade beginning in 2019.
Its main competition is the new Boeing CH-47 Chinook—a twin-engine, tandem-rotor, heavy-lift helicopter.
Sikorsky Aircraft representatives said Monday that Israeli pilots who test-piloted the helicopter lauded its capabilities and the ease of piloting it.
Although the Yas'ur is considered to be a reliable helicopter, quite a few of them crashed over the years in the IAF and in foreign armies. It is also ill-equipped for emergency landing. The King Stallion, meanwhile, is outfitted with cutting edge special seats made of durable materials, which protect its occupants from injury in the event of a crash.