By S.L. Fuller | April 27, 2017
The Sikorsky CH-53K has been the target of scrutiny, from U.S. politicians and media alike, for its high cost. The U.S. Marine Corps’ new aircraft is estimated to come with a unit price of $87 million, not including other costs. One way to get the price down is to attract foreign military sales. Multiple U.S. senators and representatives have targeted Israel to solicit a deal. While cost was not explicitly named a motivator for the members of Congress, successful procurement could bring down the price.
Connecticut Rep. Elizabeth Esty said that she and six other congressmen and women sent a letter to Israeli Minister of Defense, encouraging the country to consider procuring the King Stallion. Israel currently operates the CH-53 Yas’ur, Esty said, and procuring the new variant would continue to support its strategic partnership with the U.S.
“Investing in the CH-53K would strengthen Israel’s qualitative military edge, which is central to our bilateral security cooperation relationship,” the letter reads. “Just this month, the CH-53K reached Milestone C, which marks the official transition from the research and development to production phase. As the world’s leading heavy-lift helicopter, the CH-53K provides significant improvements – including capability, maintainability, interoperability, survivability, reliability and cost of ownership compared to predecessor aircraft.
“As the most powerful U.S. helicopter, the U.S. Marine Corps will rely on the CH-53K to complete an array of missions on land and at sea for decades to come, as they have done successfully with CH-53 predecessors for over half a century,” it continues. “The strong track record of CH-53 predecessor aircraft for both our countries make us confident that the CH-53K will meet Israel’s rotary requirements for rescue operations, transport missions and tactical troop lifts. As our strongest ally in an unpredictable region, Israel stands to strengthen our strategic partnership with the continued use of common airframes.”
The U.S. Defense Dept. has approved low-rate initial production of the King Stallion, the Sikorsky-designed successor to the Marines’ CH-53E. Four test aircraft have accumulated more than 430 hours in flight tests at Sikorsky's West Palm Beach, Florida, facility.