The U.S. State Department has officially approved the sale of 18 CH-53 King Stallion heavy lift helicopters to Israel for $3.4 billion. According to the Defense News website, the package for Israel includes up to 60 T408-GE-400 engines made by General Electric, 36 navigation systems and an unspecified number of 0.50 caliber GAU-21 machine guns.
The announcement on Friday marked the start of the process for a final contract. If the deal is approved by Congress, there will be negotiations on the details of the contract, including the final number of helicopters, the price and other details. The State Department said that the sale will improve the capability of the IAF to transport armored vehicles, personnel and equipment to support military operations. Israel will use the capability as a deterrent to regional threats and to strengthen its homeland defense, the statement said.
In February, Israel announced that it had selected the CH-53K as part of a multi-year plan to establish multi-domain units and to establish a new wing, the 7th Wing, in the IAF. The wing made up of IAF special forces units, which is based at the Palmachim Air Base, includes the "Shaldag" Unit, Unit 669, the Forward Landing Unit, and a dedicated intelligence unit.