Air Transportation: Sixty Years Strong


October 4,2008:  Israel is upgrading its 38 CH-53 heavy helicopters, so that they will last until 2025, and be much better protected from small missiles. The 20 ton CH-53 entered service in the mid-1960s, and the first one entered Israeli service in 1968. In a country as small as Israel, the CH-53 is very useful. The CH-53 has a max speed of 290 kilometers an hour, and can stay in the air for over three hours per sortie. It can carry 35 passengers, or 3.5 tons of cargo (including artillery slung beneath). Israel considered replacing the CH-53s with the CV-22, but the longer range, and higher speed, of the tilt-rotor aircraft was not a plus. The CH-53 could still haul more people and cargo.

The last major upgrade and refurbishment of the CH-53 fleet was in the late 1990s. The current refurb includes a nearly complete upgrade or replacement of all the electronics. This will make the helicopter more reliable, cheaper to maintain and easier to fly. With rebuilding and careful maintenance, these helicopters can be kept in the air indefinitely. But Israel expects to have a replacement aircraft by 2025.


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