Thursday, January 17, 2013

South Korea orders 8 AW159 AugustaWestland naval helicopters

South Korea has decided to purchase 8 AW159 helicopters from the Anglo-Italian AugustaWestland in a deal worth 600 billion South Korean won or roughly $567 million according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) making it the first export customer for the AW159.

Despite earlier reports to the contrary, the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk was the losing bidder in the selection process, where cost, technology level and off-set trade were important factors. The United States often has the advantage in South Korean competitions due to the close military alliance between the 2 countries.

According to officials, the MH-60R was disqualified mostly because it could not meet the price requested by South Korea. Previously, the DAPA had stated its determination to buy 8 helicopters for about $554 million . But in a report of a possible deal to the US Congress, the value of the MH-60R deal had been set at $1 billion.

According to Kim Seung Bok, director of maritime aircraft, the MH-60R is superior to the AW159 in terms of interoperability, which is often a deciding factor in South Korean competitions. Unlike the Wildcat, the bigger MH-60R can also conduct multiple missions simultaneously.

However, the AW159 offer was more compelling for South Korea based on cost, operational suitability and other contractual elements. Despite the losing bid, the MH-60R has recently won contracts in Denmark and Australia.The 2 helicopters may compete again in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

The AW159 Wildcat is a larger and improved version of the Super Lynx, which is already in South Korean service. The multipurpose helicopter:
  • carries a dipping sonar and 360 degree radar,
  • can be armed with torpedoes, anti-ship missiles and machine guns,
  • can be used both in the anti-submarine and anti-surface role,
  • can be adapted for various missions, including search-and-rescue.
The helicopters will be delivered between 2015 and 2016 and be stationed aboard the South Korean Navy's frigates and destroyers.

Crew: 2 pilots
Capacity: 7 passengers, including door gunner
Length: 15.24 m
Height: 3.73 m
Max takeoff weight: 6000 kg
Powerplant: 2 × LHTEC CTS800-4N turboshaft, 1015 kW each
Maximum speed: 291 km/h
Range: 777 km
Ferry range: 963 km
Endurance: 1 hr 30 min (4 hr 30 min with auxiliary fuel)

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