After the IDF decided a few months ago not to purchase the V-22 helicopter due to budgetary considerations, now Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi are reconsider this decision. Ganz, during whose tenure as IDF chief of staff Israel and the United States reached an agreement on the purchase of the V-22, is pushing the purchase vigorously, Israel Hayom reported Monday morning.
The Bell Boeing V-22 Osprey is a multi-mission, tiltrotor military aircraft with both vertical takeoff and landing, and short takeoff and landing capabilities. It is designed to combine the functionality of a conventional helicopter with the long-range, high-speed cruise performance of a turboprop aircraft.
For takeoff and landing, the V-22 typically operates as a helicopter with the nacelles vertical and rotors horizontal. Once airborne, the nacelles rotate forward 90° in as little as 12 seconds for horizontal flight, converting the V-22 to a more fuel-efficient, higher speed turboprop aircraft. It has a ferry range of over 2,100 nautical miles. Its operational range is 1,100 nautical miles.
If Gantz’s position is accepted, the purchase of the V-22 is expected to be added to a major purchase deal for helicopters, which will replace the IDF’s ancient Sikorsky CH-53 helicopters that arrived in Israel in the 1960s and 1970s. The Air Force has managed to extend their lives time and time again, until the State Comptroller has ruled in 2019 that extending their lives beyond 2025 could endanger human lives.
In late July this year, a technical malfunction occurred in a Sikorsky CH-53 full of soldiers that forced the crew to perform an emergency landing at an Air Force base. Another helicopter picked up the soldiers who continued to carry out their mission as planned.
Last November, a Sikorsky CH-53 was forced to make an emergency landing due to a malfunction, and after landing, the helicopter caught fire. In this case, too, the Sikorsky CH-53 was loaded with soldiers and fortunately there were no casualties as a result of the incident.
In August 2017, an Apache helicopter crashed at Ramon base, killing an IDF officer. In 2006, during the Second Lebanon War, two pilots were killed. In the same war, an officer was killed and three others were seriously injured in a collision between two Apache helicopters that were flying at a relatively high altitude with their lights off and a short distance apart. An initial Air Force investigation revealed that the collision occurred after the rotor of one of the helicopters hit the tail of the other. In 2008, a Cobra helicopter crashed during a training flight in the fields of Kibbutz Ginegar in the Jezreel Valley, near the Ramat David Air Force base, after the tail had detached from the helicopter’s body. Before the pilot could make an emergency landing, the helicopter hit the ground and the ammunition in it exploded and caught fire. Two officers were killed.
In 2010, during a joint training exercise by the Israeli and Romanian Air Forces, a Sikorsky CH-53 crashed on a mountainside in Romania. Six members of the Israeli Air Force were killed, along with a member of the Romanian Air Force. In 2013, a Cobra helicopter crashed during a routine training flight. Contact with it was lost, and it soon became clear that it had crashed in the Judaean lowlands. Two reserve pilots were killed in the crash.
The two helicopters competing to replace the Sikorsky CH-53 are Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky CH-53K, or K for short, which costs more; and the Boeing CH-47 Chinook. Israel Hayom reported that the defense establishment leans towards purchasing Lockheed Martin’s K, for its better performance.
Before the 2014 Gaza War, when Gantz was chief of staff and Amir Eshel was commander of the Air Force, it had already been decided to purchase six V-22s, which were due to arrive in Israel in the second half of 2016. The deal between the two countries had already been reached, but not yet been signed, and Israel was going to be the first country outside the US to own this aircraft.
But then Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who later became Gantz’s political ally in Blue&White—until the breakup, changed his position on buying the V-22 due to budgetary considerations and the IDF’s urgent need to equip itself with other weapons.