Lockheed, Boeing vie for Israeli helicopter deal

CH 53 Yasour helicopter Photo: Lockheed Martin
CH 53 Yasour helicopter Photo: Lockheed Martin

Israel's Defense Ministry will soon publish an RFI for the overhaul of its system of transport helicopters.

There are those in the US who are revving up their engines in advance of the next huge Israeli Ministry of Defense deal. The Israeli air force, which will receive two of the 33 F-35 stealth fighters it has ordered from Lockheed Martin, is also planning to overhaul its system of transport helicopters, based on outdated Yasours, in the coming years. It is believed that the Ministry of Defense will publish a request for information (RFI) in the matter in the coming year. Various sources said that the deal would be in the billions of shekels.

The contract is expected to pit two major US arms manufacturers with deep roots in Israel against each other: Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Lockheed Martin thinks that Israel should not change horses in midstream; since the Israeli air force likes its old Yasour helicopters, the company is offering its completely new and far more advanced CH-53K.

Boeing, on the other hand, is not sitting on its hands. It is likely to offer the air force its twin-engine, tandem rotor CH-47, the first models of which were produced in the early 1960s. This helicopter differs substantially from the CH-53K.

Informed sources say that the air force is seeking to procure 20-25 helicopters to replace the Yasour. The value of the deal is still unclear, and informed sources are finding it difficult to estimate it. "Lockheed Martin's proposal will be more expensive than the Boeing alternative of an outmoded helicopter that is still being manufactured despite its lack of new technologies. The air force will have to choose between price and capabilities: if you want more capabilities, you have to pay more. If the air force decides to settle for the Boeing helicopter, it can pay less," Lockheed Martin Israel CEO Brigadier General (res.) Joshua Shani told "Globes." "Our proposal will be more expensive than Boeing's, but the air force knows and likes the Yasour. There is no doubt that there will be a struggle between the two offers on the table. The Ministry of Defense will send air force pilots to try out the two helicopters and get their impressions. In any case, no decision will be taken on the matter before 2018.

"Simple and safe to operate"

Another informed source praised Boeing's helicopter; even though it was developed 60 years ago, it is still alive and kicking and flying in combat zones. In addition to the US army, it is also used by armies in Europe and other countries around the world, thanks to a number of improvements and advanced aeronautical systems installed in it, among other things following its adaptation to US forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It is capable of bearing very heavy loads, moving large forces, and is easy and safe to operate," the source said.

Lockheed Martin is selling Israel its F-35, and previously supplied Israel with F-16s. It is now in the midst of supplying Israel with new C-130J Super Hercules cargo planes, which the air force calls the Shimshon. Boeing manufactures the F-15 and Apache attack helicopter, which the Israeli air force also uses. In the past, the defense establishment expressed interest in buying Boeing C-47 refueling planes, and given that the cargo planes currently in use are outdated, a reasonable assumption is that the air force is still interested in such a deal, although it is still unclear whether money will be found to pay for it.

Boeing's attempt to sell Israel its C-47 Chinook as an alternative to the Yasour comes on top of its effort to sell the V-22 aircraft to the IDF, which has been interested in it for a long time, but has not yet found the money to enable it to go ahead with a deal. Defense sources said that these aircraft could take off and land like a helicopter, fly like an airplane, and transport special forces rapidly. They can provide a solution to extreme situations in remote places, as well as being useful in defending gas platforms in the Mediterranean.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on November 24, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

CH 53 Yasour helicopter Photo: Lockheed Martin
CH 53 Yasour helicopter Photo: Lockheed Martin
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