Yonhap reported that South Korea’s Marine Corps launched an aircraft group Wednesday to bolster the defense of border islands and wartime capabilities for landing operations. The launch ceremony took place at the newly minted group in Pohang, 370 kilometers southeast of Seoul, with the attendance of top Korean and U.S. military officers, including Marine Corps Commandant Lt. Gen. Kim Tae-sung and Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. The launch of the Marine Aircraft Group came as the armed service had sought to secure a separate air unit after its earlier unit, formed following the 1950-53 Korean War, was incorporated into the Navy in 1973.
The Republic of Korea Marine Corps (ROKMC) has no aircraft of its own, thus relying on aerial support from the Republic of Korea Army and Navy. On June 4, 2012, Ministry of National Defense confirmed a plan to distribute 32 amphibious mobile helicopters to ROKMC. The ROKMC scheduled to activate an aviation group between 2017 and 2020 with 2 amphibious mobile helicopter battalions and 1 attack helicopter battalion with Colonel in chief. In preparation for the group’s launch, the Marine Corps received two units of the MUH-1 Marineone, a variant of the KUH-1 Surion helicopter, in 2017, and plans to procure a total of 28 units by 2023.
On the margins of the launch ceremony, the Marine Corps of South Korea and the United States signed an agreement to seek exchanges between their aviation units, sharing technologies while improving interoperability between the two militaries. The service plans to create an aviation brigade with transport and KAI Surion attack helicopters by 2015. To strengthen its intelligence-gathering and surveillance capabilities, the service also is considering deploying unmanned aerial vehicles for reconnaissance. It also seeks to secure attack helicopters later. The Marine Corps plans to train pilots and maintenance staff members to ensure the smooth operation of the new unit.
The KAI KUH-1 Surion is a twin-engine, transport utility helicopter developed primarily by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), Agency for Defense Development (ADD) and Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) jointly with Eurocopter. MUH-1 (Marine Utility Helicopter) Marineon is an amphibious variant for the Republic of Korea Marine Corps, it has a 96 percent part commonality with the Surion. Modifications include an integrated flotation system, auxiliary fuel tank, and specialised radio equipment. The Marine Surion also has a folding main rotor to serve aboard Dokdo-class amphibious assault ships. In April 2021, KAI approved a project to develop an attack version of the Marineon.