Kamov helicopters and Ilyushin trainers are included as part of deal to help pay off $2 billion debt dating from 1990s

South Korea is acquiring Kamov Ka-32 search and rescue helicopters and Ilyushin Il-103 basic trainers as part of a wider arms deal to be partially offset against Russia's near-$2 billion outstanding debt to the Asian country.

The basic details of the transaction, including aircraft numbers, have been agreed between the South Korean and Russian defence ministries, and the contract will now be reviewed by their respective finance ministries. An intergovernmental agreement should be signed early next month.

Although no official figures have been released, a South Korean defence official says "not more than 10" Ka-32s are included, plus "15-20" piston-engined Il-103s. However, some reports have suggested South Korea is ordering 23 Il-103s. Also being acquired are amphibious ships, anti-tank weapons, tracked infantry combat vehicles and main battle tanks.

The officials say the overall deal is worth about $535 million, of which half will be paid in cash and the rest offset against loans made to Russia in the early 1990s. The finance ministries of the two countries are yet to resolve the issue of how much interest South Korea is entitled to claim on the debt.

South Korea has structured previous arms purchases from Russia in a similar way, say the officials.

In 1998, the Il-103 became the first Russian aircraft to gain US Federal Aviation Administration certification. It is manufactured by RSK MiG's factory in Loukhovitsky. Kamov produces the Ka-32A for search and rescue missions, though several other variants of the helicopter are available.

Source: Flight International