Israel has procured seven AgustaWestland AW119Kx Koala training helicopters to replace the ageing Bell OH-58s it has fielded since 1970, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) announced on 17 February.
The contract, signed on 14 February, will see the AW119Kx helicopters delivered to the IAF Flight Academy at Hatzerim Air Force Base. In return, the Italian Ministry of Defence (MoD) will take an equivalent value in Israeli military technology in a similar fashion to that agreed with the procurement of 30 Alenia M-346 Master jet trainer aircraft in 2011.
The IAF announcement did not disclose a contract value or delivery timeline, although Jane’s has previously reported the air force as saying the new helicopter type will arrive in 2020. With this contract covering just seven AW119Kx helicopters to replace 23 OH-58s (named Saifan in national service), follow-on deals for further examples are likely.
The AW119Kx is the latest variant of the type that is equipped with a Garmin G1000HTM integrated flight-deck system, which features a synthetic vision system, moving map display, and the Helicopter Terrain Avoidance Warning System (HTAWS). Powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6B-37B engine, the baseline AW119 can accommodate up to eight people, has a top speed of 144 kt, a service ceiling of 18,700 ft, a maximum range of 972 km (with auxiliary tanks), and an endurance of 5 hours 34 minutes. It is also the only single-engined Instrument Flight Rules (IFR)-certified helicopter in production.
The IAF has decided to procure a new training helicopter as the technological and performance gap between the OH-58 and the Boeing AH-64A/D Apache (Peten/Saraf) and other frontline operational types is now so great as to make it difficult for the service to fully assess the standards of its combat pilot graduates.
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