Extra Curricular Activities: Beyond Tefen
Two years into Israel’s multi-year wide ranging future procurement plan known as TEFEN, some additional details have emerged regarding Israel’s non fixed wing aircraft priorities. Public TEFEN details released at the time made no mention of major procurement moves for choppers, but the loss of several Apaches from mid air collisions and mechanical failure have clearly spurred the need for additional purchases beyond TEFEN.
This past year Israel looked to the Boeing Company to pick up additional Apache Ds for replacements, but has met with resistance from the Obama administration pending ‘review of Israeli actions in the recent Gaza conflict’. This embarrassing reality has been smoothed right over by a described ‘likely year long negotiation & procurement process’ with Boeing, for a whopping 6 helicopters! Because we all know it takes a year plus to negotiate price and particulars on picking up additional Apache Longbows. Especially when both the Apache A, and advanced Longbow D model both already fly with the IAF.
That’s cute, but to date we have yet to see a single major purchase finalized or even a delivery on previous purchases to Israel since Obama came to office more than 7 months ago. Instead, Israel has been clearly working over time to make up the differences locally pushing forward with internal weapons development & advances, including Trophy, Iron Dome, David’s Sling, the Namer APC and now according to Yaakov Katz at the Post an upgraded Blackhawk with offensive Air to Surface missiles & cannons. Katz also mentions that the IDF is hopeful the Apache procurement efforts are nearing ‘finalization’, but mentions only upgrades of existing IAF Model As to Longbow D versions as opposed to additional replacements..
In an effort to upgrade its attack helicopter fleet, the Israel Air Force is conducting flight tests with a new version of the Black Hawk utility helicopter that has been equipped with offensive air-to-surface missile launchers.
Israel has several dozen Black Hawk helicopters – called Yanshuf – which it began receiving in the 1990s. Made by Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, the helicopter was designed in the 1970s as a utility tactical transport aircraft for the United States Air Force. The helicopter can carry a squad of a dozen troops with equipment or alternatively carry over one ton of equipment. The US has a variant of the Black Hawk that is used for special operations and is equipped with Hellfire missiles, an automatic cannon as well as 70mm rockets.
The arming of the Black Hawk is being done jointly by the IAF, Sikorsky and several local defense contractors. One of the helicopters has already successfully test-fired an air-to-surface missile. The helicopter has also been equipped with a rapid-fire cannon that sits under the aircraft’s belly.
The IAF, sources said, does not plan at this stage to equip all of its Black Hawk helicopters with offensive capabilities but is conducting the tests to see if the possibility exists should a decision to do so be made in the future. At the same time, the IAF is close to finalizing negotiations with Boeing to upgrade at least six additional Apache attack helicopters in an effort to bolster the air support the IAF is able to provide ground forces in future operations in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. [...]
Yeah, we’re not planning on equipping many dozens of Blackhawks for ‘PaveLow’ type capabilities just yet, but should ‘unforseen circumstances’ call for it, oh like say inability to procure additional US attack helicopters & weapons in general arise we need to be prepared to bolster IAF capabilities.
You just never know what kind of unfriendly atmosphere may prevail in Washington in the ‘future’. Not under this administration per say which is VERY friendly (Obama & CO love Israel, just ask US Jewish Democrats), but in the ‘future’ – Or say after flattening the Iranian nuclear program.
After all it’s not as if delaying these helicopters affects that in any way, seeing as we employ them against Hamas & Hezbollah where tensions are sure to flare should we defend ourselves by taking on Iran. It would be presumptuous to claim that the Obama admin is trying to tie Israel’s hands every way it can from derailing the US appeasement (I meant engagement) efforts.
The US MH-53 PaveLow, MH60L Attack Blackhawk & HH-60 Pave Hawk
Whenever you see US Blackhawks in the movies, you are more often than not likely seeing a Pave or Attack variant for ‘cool effect’ (MH60L). They are a lot meaner looking and jacked up with weapons, stubby wings, sensors & the like. Sometimes you’ll also see the massive US special forces Pave Low choppers, which are based on the much bigger Sikorsky SeaStallion Helicopters – The workshorse of the US Navy. Sadly, the US Special Forces PaveLow program with the bigger Sikorskys has now been cancelled & replaced by the controversial US Osprey. Leaving the smaller attack Blackhawks like the MH60L & HH-60 Pave Hawks as mainstays for US Special Forces operations.
The new IAF variant & the Colombian AH-60 Arpia III
All these attack choppers and variants sporting ‘Pave’ monikers refer to advanced sensor packages like night time FLIR & radars which produce the green / night time low light effect commonly seen.
It is interesting to note that Israel already has experience outfitting US Blackhawks for offensive capabilities. One of the US Blackhawk export variants developed specifically with Israel for the Colombian Armed Forces sports electronics & sensors developed by Elbit Systems Israel, it’s known as the AH-60L Arpia III and is equippped with FLIR, machine guns, sensors packages & rocket pods – Jointly produced by Sikorsky & Elbit Israel.
It is of high likelyhood the new upgraded IAF Blackhawks will be heavily based on this variant, only with additional Israeli armaments to complement the Israeli Elbit electronics & sensor packages. The Arpia can carry US ‘fire & forget’ anti-tank Hellfire Missiles, however the Colombians do not have access to this weapon. Israel on the other hand delivers plenty of ‘Hellfire’ as required, notably in the airborne chopper based liquidation of terrorists.
*Update Note: I didn’t mention that Israel also flies a large number of CH-53D Sea Stallion variants (like the cancelled Pave Low described above). We call them Yasurs and they are used primarily as lift & troop tansports. They are undergoing a new modernization program called Yasur-2025 & can also be armed with missiles for attack roles.