South Korea launches helicopter procurements
South Korea has formally begun the process to procure new heavy attack and maritime helicopters, with an RfP expected to be issued in coming weeks.
According to documents released on the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) website on 9 January, the organisation is seeking bidders for a new heavy attack helicopter (AH-X) for the army and a ‘maritime operations helicopter’ for the ROK Navy.
RfPs for the two projects will be released later in January and the deadline for proposals has been set as 10 May. According to Korean media reports, the military is hoping to make a selection on both projects in October this year.
Possible candidates for the $1.5 billion project for 36 dedicated attack helicopters are the Bell AH-1Z SuperCobra, Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow, and the Eurocopter Tiger.
Seoul had previously appeared to have settled on the AH-64D for the requirement, potentially leaving the Apache as the front runner this time around, but both Bell and Eurocopter also have strong ties in the country.
‘We have already made some presentations and the big advantage we have is that we have been working for six years with Korean Aerospace Industries so we have some good links. And we have learned how to work together. Now we have to see if we have the right platform to continue our co-operation,’ Norbert Ducrot, vice president of Asian sales, told Shephard at the end of December.
Mike Burke, Boeing director of global strike rotorcraft business development, said the AH-64D had generated a lot of interest at the Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition in October.
‘They want to have some capability pretty quickly so from their timeline they are going to get a lot done next year and we are going to meet that, just as I am sure some of the other competitors are going to,’ Burke said.
The winning aircraft will supplement army stocks while more than 200 attack helicopters are developed by Korea Aerospace Industries under the KAH project that will likely involve a foreign partner.
Meanwhile, a number of companies are likely to respond to the requirement for eight maritime helicopters with ASW capabilities, with the US Navy planning to offer the MH-60R under the foreign military sales mechanism and the NH90 and AW159 also in the running.
Source: By Tony Skinner in London, Team 10 January 2012- Shephard Group / Rotorhub News(www.shephardmedia.com)
Photo: The South Korean Bell212 helicopter (Photo by shephardmedia)