South Korea Wants Attack Helos, Minesweepers, More JDAMs

 - April 5, 2021, 5:56 AM
The ROK Army could double its fleet of Apaches, which provide a powerful anti-armor force alongside those of the U.S. Army, represented by the 4-2 AVN AH-64 (shown) from Pyongtaek. (Photo: U.S. Army)

South Korea’s military procurement agency—the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA)—said it intends to procure 36 more “Apache-class” attack helicopters from abroad. The planned acquisition adds to a string of other procurements for the air, land, and sea services, including minesweeping helicopters and GPS-guided munitions. 

As well as its big-ticket KDX-III Batch-II guided-missile destroyer program, DAPA wants to bolster the Republic of Korea Army (ROKA)’s initial batch of 36 Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardians, acquired in 2016/17, with another 36 attack helicopters between 2022 and 2028. They will increase the ROKA’s capabilities in “offensive maneuvers” and allow the retirement of the Bell AH-1S Cobra. The program is worth $2.8 billion, and officials from DAPA told Yonhap News that the budget has increased due to inflation and the “necessary addition of some equipment and facilities.” While DAPA did not specify the AH-64E, it stands as the obvious frontrunner due to its commonality with the existing fleet.

DAPA also aims to develop a minesweeping helicopter with domestic companies and technologies, and an official said that the government will invest around $751 million from 2022 to 2030 on a platform based on the marine version of the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KUH-1 utility helicopter. The minesweeping helicopters will likely be based on the Dokdo-class helicopter carriers and the future CVX aircraft carrier to give the high-value marine assets greater protection from underwater mines.

Also on the list is a fourth 2,000-pound JDAM GPS-guided bomb acquisition worth $415 million, to be procured via U.S. foreign military sales (FMS). Additionally, on March 19 the U.S. State Department approved a potential sale of 288 AGM-114R Hellfire II missiles to South Korea worth $36 million. Known as the Hellfire Romeo, the “R” variant has a semi-active laser seeker and multi-purpose warhead for engaging a wide spectrum of surface targets.