Israel boosts long-range strike capability with US deal
Israel has penned a deal with its allies in Washington to buy 12 Lockheed Martin helicopters and two Boeing refueling planes, with the total cost estimated to be around $3.1 billion.
On Friday, Israel’s Ministry of Defense confirmed its deal with the US to enhance its military capabilities throughout the next decade. The 12 Lockheed Martin CH-53K helicopters are due to arrive in Israel from 2026, while the two Boeing KC-46 air-to-air refueling aircraft from 2025.
A ministry statement noted that there was an option to buy six additional helicopters, while Brigadier-General Shimon Tsentsiper, chief of materiel for the air force, told Israel's Army Radio on Thursday that he hoped there would be four KC-46s in total.
Tsentsiper said that Israel was hoping to bring forward the delivery of the KC-46s, which would be replacing an aging fleet of tanker aircraft.
The current fleet of air-to-air refueling assets is more than 50 years old and is based on the Boeing 707. While they’re still flightworthy, the new tankers would provide greater range and mobility.
Media have speculated that the new refueling assets would be vital for maintaining a credible strike capability when it comes to arch-foe Iran. However, Tsentsiper insisted that the current fleet is still sufficiently capable.
Nonetheless, a former Israeli Air Force commander last year warned the military “urgently” needed the new planes, saying “there is no country in the world that flies platforms that are this old.”