South Korea picks AW159 for maritime helicopter deal

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AgustaWestland expects to close the first export sale of its AW159 Lynx Wildcat within weeks, after South Korea selected the type for a maritime helicopter requirement, initially for eight aircraft.

South Korea's Defence Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced the development on 15 January, with the nation's decision having followed a competition between the new-generation Lynx and Sikorsky's MH-60R Seahawk. Its evaluation was based on criteria including cost, performance and operational suitability with the Republic of Korea Navy's future frigates, the DAPA says.

AgustaWestland parent company Finmeccanica says the contract will value around $560 million, with its stake to be worth approximately €270 million ($358 million). The airframer, meanwhile, says the win “will help sustain several hundred jobs” at its Yeovil production site in Somerset.

 

AgustaWestland

Roles to be undertaken by the missile-equipped AW159 for South Korea would include anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare tasks, maritime surveillance, and search and rescue duties, AgustaWestland says. Deliveries will take place in 2015 and 2016, with the aircraft also to be equipped with an active dipping sonar for the anti-submarine role. Armaments will include anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and a door-mounted gun, it adds.

The South Korean navy already has an active inventory of 24 Lynx 99/99A aircraft, which Flightglobal's Ascend Online Fleets database records has having been delivered between 1989 and 2000.

The selection is an important development for AgustaWestland, after it lost out late last year in a nine-aircraft contest with the MH-60R in Denmark. The company is already manufacturing 62 Lynx Wildcats for the UK armed forces, with the type due to enter service with the British Army in August 2014 and the Royal Navy in January 2015. The procurement is worth just over £1.6 billion ($2.5 billion), according to the UK National Audit Office's 10 January Major Projects Report.

Trade links between the UK and South Korea have also recently included the former's selection last March of Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering to build a new fleet of logistics support and tanker vessels for the Royal Fleet Auxiliary. The four-ship programme is expected to be worth more than £450 million.