Procurement: Israeli Pilots Forced To Fly Economy

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December 5, 2009: Israel is planning on buying some more CH-53 helicopters, and refurbishing the ones they already have. But helicopter pilots would prefer the new U.S. V-22. The U.S. Department of Defense has ordered several hundred V-22 tilt-rotor transports, for about $63 million each. The U.S. buying up to 35 V-22s a year. The V-22s can carry 24 troops 700 kilometers (vertical take-off, level flight, landing, and return) at 400 kilometers an hour. The V-22 is replacing the CH-46E helicopter, which can carry 12 troops 350 kilometers at a speed of 200 kilometers an hour. The MV-22 can carry a 10,000-pound external sling load 135 kilometers, while the CH-46E can carry 3,000 pounds only 90 kilometers.

But in Israel, it's all about money, as the V-22 is much more expensive than refurbished, or even new, helicopters with similar carrying capacity. Israeli refurbs to their 38 CH-53s, will enable them to last until 2025, and be much better protected from small missiles. The CH-53 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.

The 20 ton CH-53 entered service in the mid-1960s, and the first one entered Israeli service in 1968. 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 has considered replacing the CH-53s with the V-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, and Israel is a small country, with little need for the faster, and longer range, V-22. Israel finds the slower CH-53s adequate to their needs because most operations are inside Israel, or for short forays into adjacent countries. The helicopter pilots would like the faster V-22s, because these aircraft are able to spend less time in hostile airspace.

 


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