South Korea's ministry of national defence has announced formally its intention to go ahead with a $337 million deal to buy additional Westland Super Lynx naval helicopters and upgrade an earlier batch of machines already in service.

The order covers a second batch of 13 improved Super Lynx, including a single attrition replacement. At the same time, the South Korean navy is to upgrade its 11 surviving Lynx Mk99 helicopters to the latest production standard, including retrofitting new radars, forward-looking infra-red (FLIR) imager and electronic support measures (ESM). A contract is understood already to have been concluded by Westland and the defence ministry, and endorsed by South Korea's president. A letter of credit was expected to be drawn up at the time of publishing. A separate contract will cover the purchase of additional numbers of British Aerospace Sea Skua helicopter-launched anti-ship missiles.

The South Korean navy has opted to stay with the Rolls-Royce Gem 42-1 turboshaft for the new helicopter, rather than switch to the slightly more powerful LHTEC T800. Its Super Lynx helicopters will also be fitted with GEC-Marconi 360¹ Sea Spray 3000 radars. It is expected to finalise its selection of remaining equipment shortly.

The choice of FLIRs has been narrowed down to the GEC-Marconi Sea Owl, FLIR Systems AAQ-22 Saphire and Hughes AAQ-16. The ESM competition is between GEC-Marconi and Racal.

The defence ministry, in the meantime, has decided to postpone for at least two years plans to purchase up to 20 new Lockheed Martin C-130J transports and a follow-on batch of eight Lockheed Martin P-3C anti-submarine warfare (ASW) aircraft.

The two programmes have now been dropped from the ministry's 1998 funding request. A cutback in defence expenditure has forced the military to prioritise its procurement plans (Flight International, 28 May-3 June).

The air force has opted to put funding for its future F-X fighter ahead of the new transport, while the navy wants a new class of submarine in preference to more ASW aircraft.

Local reports have also linked the decision to drop the two Lockheed Martin programmes as the result of a financial scandal surrounding South Korea's purchase of its initial batch of eight P-3Cs, delivered in 1995. The defence ministry is alleging that nearly $30 million in irregular payments were made, and has taken the case to international arbitration.

Source: Flight International