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Israel Seeks Solution for CH-53K Sand Ingestion Issue

Lockheed Martin Leading Industry/USMC Team to Resolve

The potential delivery date for the Israeli Air Force’s (IAF) first CH-53K will be determined by two factors: the location where IAF-specific equipment will be installed, and resolution of the problems of sand ingestion for the helicopter’s engines. A final contract is scheduled for signature before year end, with delivery anticipated from 2025, but these factors may affect that date.

The Israeli MoD selected the Lockheed Martin aircraft in February over the Boeing CH-47, to replace the now out-of-service previous CH-53 models. The selection followed a series of test flights in both candidate aircraft. Shortly after the final selection, problems were revealed vis-à-vis dust and sand – a helicopter’s worst enemies. Ingestion can cause compressor erosion, turbine blade glazing, turbine blade vibration and fatigue problems and blockage of blade cooling apertures. Typically, such problems occur during take-off and landing operations in so-called ‘brown-out’ conditions.

Israeli sources indicate that, despite the lengthy evaluation programme, engine sensitivity to dust was not initially considered to be a problem, but is now recognized to be a serious issue, in need of “a total solution.” A Lockheed Martin spokesperson told MON that there is steady progress towards resolution. “Our joint Sikorsky/GE/NAVAIR team of engineers is developing a path forward to improve the overall aircraft capability. The preliminary design plan includes increased operational awareness to provide pilots real-time engine performance data and hardware solutions to improve the aircraft tolerance to the environment. The improvements we plan to incorporate give us the opportunity to deliver a CH-53K with capabilities that fully support the US Marine Corps’ mission in austere environments.”

The other determining factor affecting the delivery date is the IAF’s decision as to where the Israeli-developed systems will be installed – on the production line or in Israel post-delivery. Israeli sources informed MON that, currently, it seems the former is the more likely decision.

Arie Egozi in Tel Aviv for MON

An artist’s rendering of the CH-53K KING STALLION sporting IAF colours. (Image: Lockheed Martin)

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