South Korea’s army reportedly plans to launch a $5-billion-plus program to develop and procure about 270 advanced attack helicopters next year.
That initiative follows the launch in late 2005 of the Korean Helicopter Program to develop and buy 245 utility helicopters with an industry team led by Korea Aerospace Industries and Eurocopter. It is slated to start fielding advanced troop-transport helicopters in 2012.
The attack helicopter plan is part of South Korea’s efforts to improve its military’s readiness as it prepares to take on full responsibility for defending the nation five years hence.
The United States, which has defended South Korea since the end of the Korean War that divided the Korean Peninsula between north and south in the late 1950s, plans to withdrawal from that role.
South Korea also needs to replace its army’s aging fleet of MD Helicopters MD500 light attack helicopters.
The nation’s Joint Chiefs of Staff is reported to have approved the attack helicopter program in June 2006.
The army is said to be looking to build a prototype by 2014 before starting production of 272 units. The procurement’s value is estimated at 5-6 trillion won ($5.4 billion).
The army originally planned to pair the attack and utility programs, developing 299 transports and 178 attack helicopters by 2010 under the Korea Multi-Purpose Helicopter program. But that project was scuttled in May 2005.