The Israeli air force has acquired five decommissioned Sikorsky CH-53 transport helicopters from the USA to be used for spares, as part of a continuing effort to keep its aged fleet of the type flying.
Selected by air force experts, the ex-US Marine Corps aircraft were moved by truck from storage in Arizona to Houston, Texas, where they were loaded on to a cargo ship. Following their arrival in Israel in mid-February, they will be taken to the 22 maintenance unit at Tel Nof air base and cannibalised as required.
In addition to the airframes, Israel will also receive a number of engines, tail sections, rotor blades and other items that have been removed from service to support its fleet.
Carmel Horowitz/Israeli defence ministry
The Israeli air force currently operate 23 CH-53s
The Israeli air force has an active fleet of 23 of the heavy transports, which Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database shows comprises 18 in the CH-53 2000 standard and five which have been modified to the enhanced Yasur 2025 standard, which introduces new electronic warfare and satellite communication equipment.
Efforts to sustain the fleet have already included removing one retired aircraft from long-term storage at Tel Nof in 2011 and launching a programme to return it to operational use.
Israel previously planned to replace its inventory with the USMC's new CH-53K, which is now under development. However, Boeing has suggested its air force could potentially operate its CH-47F Chinook under a private finance initiative (PFI) deal, where a third party would purchase helicopters and supply flight hours to the air force.
The service already uses the PFI framework widely to obtain access to fleets of training aircraft and helicopters, and sources suggest heavy budget restrictions could potentially see it expand its use of such arrangements to cover other equipment areas.