Boeing has won a contract to supply South Korea with AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, defeating the Bell AH-1Z Zulu and Turkish Aerospace Industries T129B for the 36-aircraft AHX requirement.

"Boeing is pleased with the announcement that the Republic of Korea has selected the AH-64E Apache as its new heavy-attack helicopter," the US airframer said in an email to Flightglobal. "We look forward to working with the US Army and the Republic of Korea Army as they finalise the Foreign Military Sales contract for 36 AH-64E Apaches."

According to US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notifications in September 2012, the Apache deal could be worth up to $3.6 billion; considerably higher than the proposed AH-1Z contract, which was valued at $2.6 billion.

"The heavily-armed attack helicopters will replace ageing helicopters deployed by the army to counter threats by the North Korean military's armoured units and deter provocations," Seoul's Defense Acquisition Program Administration spokesman Baek Yoon-Hyeong was reported as saying.

Industry sources close to the competition had expected a decision in late 2012, but this was delayed by South Korea's presidential election last December.

This is Seoul's second major acquisition this month. On 10 April it selected the Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar to upgrade its fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16C/D fighters. Once the US government gives the go-ahead, Raytheon will deliver 134 of the active electronically scanned array radar systems to South Korea. Deliveries are expected to start in late 2016, after the company completes development work.

Industry sources say that Seoul is likely to make a decision on the F-X III competition for 60 fighters in June. The three contenders for the deal, possibly the world's biggest fighter buy this year, are the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle, Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35A Joint Strike Fighter. The selected type will replace Seoul's obsolescent fleet of McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantoms.

Heightened tensions with North Korea this year have prompted Seoul to push forward key defence purchases, industry sources say.

Source: Flight International