South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has earmarked funds for new attack helicopters, and for the development of a minesweeping version of the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KUH-1 Surion.

A total of W3.2 trillion ($2.8 billion) has been earmarked for the attack helicopter programme, which will run from 2022-2028, says the agency. This is a follow-on to a previous W1.9 trillion acquisition that saw South Korea acquire 36 Boeing AH-64E Apaches between 2012 and 2021.

Korean Army AH-64E Apache

Source: Greg Waldron/FlightGlobal

A South Korean army AH-64E Apache at the Seoul ADEX show in October 2019

The deal calls for the attack helicopters to be acquired overseas. The Yonhap news agency reports that 36 helicopters will be obtained.

The new helicopters will 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 is quoted by Yonhap as saying.

“The budget has increased due to inflation and the necessary addition of some equipment and facilities. This second batch project is to enhance our ground forces’ operations of offensive manoeuvres.”

In addition, DAPA will spend W850 million to locally develop a helicopter equipped for the maritime minesweeping mission. This deal will run from 2022-2030.

DAPA did not specify the airframe that will be developed for this mission, but Yonhap reports that it will be based on the Marineon – the marine version of the Surion.

Seoul has a separate requirement to obtain an attack helicopter for the country’s marines. Bell has proposed the AH-1Z Zulu for this deal, but KAI has also promoted a version of the Surion equipped for the attack mission.