South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced on 26 April that the country is planning to develop an indigenous attack helicopter to meet a Republic of Korea Marine Corps (RoKMC) requirement for 20–24 helicopters. When the Korean Marine Corps got its two first MUH-1 “Marineon” in 2018, they became the first major aircraft the 29,000-strong force received since its integration in the ROK Navy in the early 1970s. The project, which has been provisionally budgeted at $1.44 billion (KRW 1.6 trillion ) and be completed by 2031.
DAPA concluded a year-long study analysing offers from five bidding companies: Bell Textron (AH-1Z Viper), Boeing (AH-64E Apache Guardian), Turkish Aerospace (T-129 Atak), Lockheed Martin-Sikorsky (S-70i), and Korean Aerospace Industries or KAI (Surion Marine Attack Helicopter).After the year-long study, DAPA’s Defense Agency of Technology and Quality (DTaQ) concluded that procuring a locally developed platform capable of operating from the Republic of Korea Navy’s amphibious assault ships would be more cost effective than acquiring a foreign-made one.
The attack helicopter proposed by KAI globally kept the design of the Surion family: a twin-engine 1,800 shp , a 8,7 t MTOW and a useful load of 5,9 t, an operational range of 646 km and an endurance of 3h40. The weapons package includes a 20 mm Gatling gun with 1,400 rounds, 2.75 inch rocket pods, two quad-launchers for antitank guided missile and two dual-launchers for air-to-air missile. KAI added a suite of weapons allowing the chopper to perform two main missions, including from the ROK Navy Dokdo-class LPHs: air assault support and anti-tank attack.
The Surion Marine attack helicopter is envisaged to be fitted with the nose-mounted electro-optical/infrared targeting and designation system primarily developed by Hanwha Systems for the South Korean Army’s future light attack helicopter. The crew would receive head-mounted displays and night vision goggles. Still, there are lingering worries over the shipborne operational capability of KAI’s marine attack helicopter modified from the ground-based KUH-1 utility helicopter.