Bell Helicopter claims the AH-1Z as the only attack helicopter in the world to be built specifically for marine environments. (Courtesy of Bell Helicopter)
By: Mike Yeo
MELBOURNE, Australia ― Bell Helicopter is positioning itself to compete for South Korea’s upcoming amphibious attack helicopter requirement, as the U.S. ally seeks to transform its own Marine Corps and improve its capabilities.
Speaking to Defense News by phone from Seoul, where he is attending the ADEX air show, Bell’s vice president of global business development, Steve Mathias, said the company’s AH-1Z Viper is the only attack helicopter in the world to be built specifically for marine environments, with regional users able to leverage on the U.S. Marine Corps’ experience in operating the type.
A white paper recently released by South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense said one of the upcoming “major force enhancement projects” for its marines is the acquisition of what it calls “amphibious attack helicopters”; although neither the number of helicopters sought nor delivery timelines were provided.
The white paper also said South Korea’s Marine Corps will be transformed into “a marine-air-ground task force that is capable of executing various types of missions, such as defending strategic islands and carrying out multi-dimensional, high-speed amphibious operations”.
Marine divisions will undergo restructuring via a buildup of its military strength in battlefield surveillance as well as its ability to strike and defend objectives, while plans to field amphibious task helicopters will see them come under a newly established Marine Aviation Group.
Another possible contender for the amphibious attack helicopter requirement is Korea Aerospace Industries’ light armed helicopter, which is based on the Airbus Helicopters H155 design.
KAI secured a $523 million contract in January to provide 30 KUH-1 Surion transport helicopters to South Korea’s marines. The helicopters were expected to be delivered by 2023 and were part of a 200-aircraft order for South Korea’s armed forces.
However, the country’s Defence Acquisition Program Administration has since suspended further deliveries of the Surion in the wake of numerous defects found in previously delivered examples and a corruption scandal that has seen several of KAI’s executives indicted.
Original post: defensenews.com
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