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MAH-1 - KAI Surion Marine Attack Helicopter

South Korea plans to develop a new attack helicopter for its marines. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) annoucned that a high level defence committee reached the decisions after a meeting on 26 April 2021. The fielding of an indigenous attack helicopter for the ROK Marines was budgeted for roughly W1.6 trillion ($1.4 billion) until 2031. South Korea’s marines were in the market for 24 attack helicopters capable of operating from the ROCK Navy’s pair of Dokdo-class amphibious assault ships.

The new attack helicopter will be based on the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KUH-1 Surion utility helicopter. The type already had a marine variant, the MUH-1 Marineon. The aircraft is aimed at enhancing the service’s amphibious assault capabilities, particularly in the north-western islands near the inter-Korean border, by providing aerial fire support, among other things.

Bidding for the programme began in January 2019 with five companies participating: Bell Textron (proposing its AH-1Z Viper), Boeing (AH-64E Apache Guardian), Turkish Aerospace (T-129 ATAK), Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky (S-70i), and KAI Surion Marine Attack Helicopter (MAH), a version of the Surion equipped for the attack mission. KAI was the only South Korean company in the bidding process.

KAI displayed at the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition, or ADEX, taking place 15-20 October 2019, a concept for a marine attack helicopter to compete against the Bell AH-1Z Viper for a deal with the South Korean Marine Corps, which wanted to buy 24 attack helicopters for amphibious assault operations. Powered by a twin turbo-shaft engine with 1,800-plus horsepower, the marine attack version is to be armed with Lockheed Martin’s AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-surface missile; the Mistral ATAM air-to-air missile developed by MBDA; 2.75-inch non-guided/guided rockets; and the 20mm turret gun.

The KUH-1E, an export variant of the troop-carrying Surion helicopter, was also displayed at ADEX. “The KUH-1E has been in development for four years to meet the requirements of foreign customer nations,” Kim Ji-hyung, spokesman for KAI, told Defense News. “Not every country [can] afford both utility helicopters and attack helicopters. For those customers, the KUH-1E is expected to be an optimal solution.” The KUH-1E mock-up on display features a weapons mount equipped with rockets, missiles and a gun pod. Stub wings mounted forward of the door can carry either Hellfire or Spike anti-tank missiles; pods for domestically built 2.75-inch rockets; and infrared-homing air-to-air missiles. The Marine Corps have wanted foreign aircraft choppers, such as the AH-64 Apache or AH-1Z Viper of Bell Textron, not an armed version of the Marineon. "We've taken into consideration diverse factors such as the interoperability with the Marineon and the operations and management efficiency," DAPA said in a statement. "The project is expected to enhance our troops' capabilities, particularly in northwestern islands (near the inter-Korean border)."

Under a separate program, in March 2021 Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) allocated funds for new attack helicopters, and for the development of a minesweeping version of the KUH-1 Surion. A total of W3.2 billion ($2.8 billion) was earmarked for the attack helicopter program, which would run from 2022-2028, according to the agency. This was a follow-on to a previous W1.9 trillion acquisition that saw South Korea acquire 36 Boeing AH-64E Apaches between 2012 and 2021. The plan called for the attack helicopters to be acquired overseas. The Yonhap news agency reported that 36 helicopters were to be obtained. The new helicopters would replace legacy Bell AH-1S Cobras in South Korean service. “We will begin procedures to select the exact type of this asset and a company to purchase attack choppers,” a DAPA official was quoted by Yonhap as saying.

The term "combat helicopter" covers rotary wing aircraft armed and equipped to engage targets or equipped to perform other military functions. The the term "combat helicopters" comprises attack helicopters and combat support helicopters. The term "combat helicopter" does not include unarmed transport helicopters. An "attack helicopter" is a combat helicopter equipped to employ anti-armor, air-to-ground, or air-to-air guided weapons and equipped with an integrated fire control and aiming system for these weapons. The term "attack helicopter" comprises specialized attack helicopters and multipurpose attack helicopters. A "specialized attack helicopter" is an attack helicopter that is designed primarily to employ guided weapons. A "multipurpose attack helicopter" is an attack helicopter designed to perform multiple military functions and equipped to employ guided weapons.

Attack operations destroy or defeat enemy forces in order to seize, retain, or exploit the initiative. Attack/reconnaissance units conduct two basic types of attack — CCA and IA. Close combat attack is a hasty or deliberate attack by Army aircraft providing air-to-ground fires for friendly units engaged in close combat. Due to the close proximity of friendly forces, detailed integration is required. Interdiction attack is a hasty or deliberate attack by Army aircraft to divert, disrupt, delay, degrade, or destroy the enemy before they can be used effectively against friendly forces. IA is conducted at such a distance from friendly forces that detailed integration with ground forces is not required. Movement to contact operations are designed to develop the situation and to establish or regain contact. The commander conducts a movement to contact (MTC) when the enemy situation is vague or not specific enough to conduct an attack. A search and attack is a specialized technique of conducting a movement to contact in an environment of noncontiguous AOs.

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Page last modified: 06-05-2021 17:13:04 ZULU