Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky announced on Wednesday that it will begin building the first four of Israel’s 12 new CH-53K transport helicopters under a U.S. Navy Foreign Military Sales agreement.

“This production announcement is for the first four of 12 aircraft for Israel and is on the heels of a contract to produce nine more aircraft for the U.S. Marine Corps,” the company said in a statement. “The signed letter of offer and acceptance (Letter of Agreement) between the U.S. government and Israel states first deliveries of the baseline aircraft are planned for 2025,” it said.

The CH-53Ks will replace the Israeli Air Force fleet of modified CH-53D Yasur helicopters, which have been in Israel’s inventory for more than 50 years.

“The all-new CH-53K delivers modern state-of-the-art capabilities that result in improved survivability, safety and reduced aircrew workload over its predecessor, making it the perfect fit for the demanding IAF mission,” said Lockheed Martin.

“We are building on decades of experience and partnership in supporting the CH-53E for the Marine Corps and the CH53D for the IAF,” said Paul Lemmo, president of the Sikorsky company. “We are committed to providing training and sustainment support to ensure a smooth entry into service for the IAF.”

The aircraft will be manufactured at Sikorsky headquarters in Stratford, Conn.

On Dec. 31, the Israeli Defense Ministry announced the signing of a letter of agreement to purchase the 12 new helicopters from Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky, as well as two Boeing KC-46 refueling planes.

“These procurement agreements are significant milestones in the IDF’s force buildup processes. We continue to strengthen our capabilities and to change and adapt our Air Force to face future challenges both near and far,” Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz said at the time.

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