South Korea Wants to Rapidly Expand Its Helicopter Numbers

The Republic of Korea’s Army is reportedly seeking to obtain new attack helicopters as quickly as possible. According to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), the Defense Minister of Korea, Suh Wook, agreed the plan to purchase 36 attack helicopters. The Koreans have already purchased a batch of 36 AH-64E Apache in 2013. The budget for the new contract is estimated at $2.8 billion. The Koreans want to obtain the new aircraft by 2028.

The first batch of Apaches was purchased back in 2013 for $1.6 billion. All 36 aircraft were delivered in 2017. Yet, only a year later, South Korea began to discuss its interest in purchasing a further 36 AH-64E due to good feedback from its operators and its great effectiveness in breaking through the North Korean A2/AD systems, opening the front to be exploited by the air force and ground troops.

Bell AH-1 variants operated by the US Marine Corps (USMC)

Depending on how the procurement will be run the potential contract for $2.8 billion may attract numerous companies to participate in the tender. Including Bell Aircraft Corporation, with their AH-1 attack helicopters which have already in service with the ROK Army for decades. It is a relatively cheaper platform than the Boeing AH-64 but in terms of payload and capabilities, the AH-64 is superior. Both manufacturers will no doubt try to snatch the contract as it is a great opportunity for the companies.

The ROK Army is very interested in increasing its fleet of attack helicopters sooner rather than later. It is due to a change of doctrine within ROK’s ground forces, closing the gap between the two militaries. The huge technological advancement and the high numbers of heavy equipment have allowed the ROK to change their approach. The ROK Army is the force responsible for stopping any North Korean offensive and even strike back in order to take Pyongyang. The role of air cavalry in such a conflict would be crucial in order to break through the mountainous terrain of the 38th Parallel and engage North Korean armor.