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Seoul may issue naval helicopter RFP in 2012-13

South Korea could issue a request for proposals (RFP) for a new naval combat helicopter in 2012-13, although its planned acquisition of eight other helicopters for minesweeping duties appears to have been delayed.

A US government source said Seoul would have preferred to buy a naval variant of the Korea Aerospace Industries Surion for the combat helicopter role, but the design is too large for the Korean navy's Dokdo amphibious assault ship.

"They have decided [the naval combat helicopter] cannot be produced locally, so there may be a competition," said the source. "All signs point to an RFP in 2013. We're optimistic they are coming to a decision."

The source was not able to provide details on the number of helicopters the Republic of Korea Navy plans to acquire.

© Lockheed Martin

One of the bidders in the competition will be the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky MH-60R (above).

Other possible contenders could include the larger NH Industries NH90 and AgustaWestland AW101.

South Korea also has a requirement for eight minesweeping helicopters. In 2009, Seoul requested the purchase of eight Sikorsky MH-60S Seahawk multi-mission helicopters, with an airborne mine countermeasures (AMCM) capability.

These types would be used to detect and destroy mines in coastal waters - but this deal is yet to be finalised.

"It is our understanding that there is still an active requirement for an AMCM capability in Korea and that the acquisition is just delayed," said Lockheed.

The US company said a team will attend the Seoul air show in October to pitch the MH-60R, although there is no plan to bring a helicopter to the show.

South Korea's navy currently operates the AgustaWestland Lynx in the shipborne helicopter role.

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