Boeing has been awarded a multi-billion dollar contract for the supply of AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to the Republic of Korea (ROK) Army, the country's Defense Acquisition Procurement Administration (DAPA) has announced.
Awarded amid escalating tensions with North Korea, the estimated KRW1.8trn ($1.6bn) foreign military sales (FMS) contract covers the delivery of 36 helicopters along with training and logistical support to enhance aerial firepower of the South Korean Army beginning in 2016.
Speaking during a briefing, DAPA spokesman Baek Yoon-hyeong said: "The heavily armed attack helicopters will replace ageing helicopters deployed by the army to counter threats by North Korean military's armoured units and deter provocations."
Selected against Bell Helicopter AH-1Z Cobra and the AgustaWestland-Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) T-129B attack helicopters, the Apaches are expected to be primarily operated to counter enemy tanks or armoured vehicles during conflicts.
Originally scheduled to be announced in late-2012, the award comes as South Korea awaits Pentagon-approval for deployment of an additional attack-reconnaissance squadron, as the country prepares to take over wartime operational control from the US at the end of 2015, Yonhap News Agency reported.
Known as Guardian, the AH-64E is a heavily armed helicopter featuring powerful, fuel-efficient T700-GE-701D engines, enhanced rotor blade technology, and electronics, as well as improved aircraft handling, performance and agility at higher altitudes.
Designed to replace the army's existing AH-64D Longbow fleet, the helicopter also features joint tactical radio system, electro-optical and infrared (EO/IR) sensors to improve pilots' situational awareness and an oversea capacity, enabling potential strikes on smaller ships.
The South Korean Army has long been operating an ageing fleet of Bell AH-1S Cobra helicopters for attack missions.
Deliveries under the contract are scheduled to be complete by 2018.
Image: The Republic of Korea Army is purchasing 36 AH-64E Apache helicopters. Photo: courtesy of Army Photo.