The first steps have been taken toward decisions regarding the new aircraft to be acquired for the IAF: after many years of expressing an interest, IMOD has requested information on a new platform for the IAF – the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft. This aircraft takes off and lands vertically like a helicopter and flies horizontally like a fixed-wing aircraft, and is intended primarily for special operations and forces.
IsraelDefense has learned that IMOD has issued a P&A (Price and Availability) inquiry intended to obtain information about the unique tiltrotor aircraft, manufactured by Bell-Boeing. The new aircraft is very fast, carries a few dozen warfighters and is intended, as stated, for special forces that must reach their objectives quickly. V-22 aircraft have already visited IAF bases during joint IDF-US Army training exercises, and Israeli pilots were impressed by the aircraft's unique performance characteristics. The inquiry will be submitted to the US Government as a "request for information" in anticipation of the future decision as to whether or not the aircraft should be acquired.
What will Replace the CH-53 Yas'ur Helicopters?
At the same time, an IAF delegation will travel to the United States next month to conduct "tests and evaluations" on the two heavy-lift helicopters considered as a replacement for the aging CH-53 helicopters (IAF designation Yas'ur) – Lockheed Martin's CH-53K King Stallion and Boeing's CH-47 Chinook. The delegation will consist of operational pilots, test pilots, project officers, and logistics officers who will conduct the various tests and evaluations.
The invitation to this fact-finding visit did not come from the manufacturers, but rather from the US military. The intention is to examine the two heavy-lift helicopter models, understand their operation, flying and operating procedures, learn from US air and ground crews, and naturally – fly the helicopters, with which IAF helicopter pilots are already familiar.
The IAF delegation will examine each helicopter model over the course of one week. The examination of Lockheed Martin's helicopter will be conducted at the simulator facility in Washington and the USMC base in Virginia, while Boeing's helicopter will be presented to the delegation at the airbase of one of the helicopter squadrons of the US Army.
The CH-53K King Stallion helicopter by Lockheed Martin is new and in fact still under development, while Boeing's CH-47 Chinook helicopter is a proven and established model that gained substantial operational and combat experience. Boeing will offer the IAF a more advanced and upgraded version.
Both giant corporations, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, have offices and long-standing agencies in Israel, which engage in aggressive lobbying in support of their products. Both corporations have been supplying aircraft and diversified military equipment to the State of Israel for decades.
In the context of the existing competition, both corporations have been presenting the characteristics and advantages of both heavy-lift helicopter models as complying optimally with the requirements of the IAF heavy-lift activity. Lockheed Martin Israel has even established a simulator center in Tel-Aviv where pilots can "fly" their King Stallion helicopter and get a first-hand impression of its performance. The Israeli representative of the Lockheed Martin Corporation is Shiki Shani, a former IAF transport pilot, squadron leader, and airbase commander, who was the leader of the C-130 Hercules formation that flew to Entebbe in 1976. The Israeli representative of the Boeing Corporation is Maj. Gen. (res.) David Ivry, formerly the Commander of the IAF.
Other serious decisions are to be made in the not-too-distant future, regarding a new airborne refueling tanker and new fighter aircraft (additional F-35 fighters by Lockheed Martin and/or advanced, upgraded F-15 fighters by Boeing, or a combination of both). The final decision as to the change the IAF will undergo is in the hands of the pilots, the IAF staff and command, the defense establishment, the Minister of Defense, the Israeli Government, and the Prime Minister. Presumably, the decisions regarding the new aircraft will not be made before the new government has been established and a new minister of defense has been appointed following the coming elections.