South Korea to buy 36 AH-64E Apaches

Boeing has won a contract to supply South Korea with AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, defeating the Bell AH-1Z Zulu and Turkish Aerospace T-129B for the 36 helicopter AHX requirement.

“Boeing is pleased with the announcement that the Republic of Korea has selected the AH-64E Apache as its new heavy-attack helicopter,” the US airframer said in an email to Flightglobal. “We look forward to working with the US Army and the Republic of Korea Army as they finalise the Foreign Military Sales contract for 36 AH-64E Apaches.”

According to US Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notifications in September 2012, the Apache deal is worth $3.6 billion, considerably higher than the proposed AH-1Z contract, which was valued at $2.6 billion.

“The heavily-armed attack helicopters will replace aging helicopters deployed by the army to counter threats by the North Korean military’s armoured units and deter provocations,” Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration spokesman Baek Yoon-Hyeong was reported as saying.

Industry sources close to the competition had expected a decision in late 2012, but this was delayed by South Korea’s presidential election in December 2012.

This is Seoul’s second major acquisition in a month. On 10 April it selected the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar (RACR) to upgrade its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16C/D fighters.

Once the US government gives the go-ahead, Raytheon will deliver 134 of the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar systems to South Korea. Deliveries are expected to start in late 2016, after the company completes development work.

Industry sources say that Seoul is likely to make a decision on the F-X III competition for 60 fighters in June. The three contenders for the deal, possibly the world’s biggest fighter buy this year, are the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle, Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and Eurofighter Typhoon. The type will replace Seoul’s obsolescent fleet of McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantoms.

Heightened tensions with North Korea this year have prompted Seoul to push forward key defence purchases, industry sources say.

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