Republic of Korea Army AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters
Republic of Korea Army AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters

South Korea to Buy AH-64E Attack Helicopters and Indigenous Light Attack Helicopters

The South Korean Defense Project Promotion Committee also gave the green light to a 3.3 trillion-won plan to purchase heavy attack helicopters from abroad from 2023-28, according to the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). South Korea’s news agency Yonhap reported that Seoul has sought to buy more Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters amid its push to counter evolving military threats from North Korea. The new fleet of advanced attack helicopters would play a crucial role in countering possible North Korean amphibious infiltrations into western border islands and other possible attacks. In Goampo, Hwanghae Province, the North has built a unit to house some 60 hovercrafts whose infiltrations operations could be countered by the attack helicopters.

Korea Aerospace Industries Tests Light Armed Helicopter at Yellowknife Airport, Canada
Korea Aerospace Industries Tests Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) at Yellowknife Airport, Canada. (Photo by KAI)

As the AH-64E Apache Guardian is big in size and equipped with many high-tech weapons systems, the sustainment cost is expected to be higher, compared with the 500MD and AH-1S attack helicopters South Korea currently runs. On April 2013, South Korea announced plans to buy 36 Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters. The first four AH-64Es were delivered in May 2016, and all 36 were deployed by January 2017. In September 2022, South Korea approved a 400 billion-won (US$295 million) plan Friday to upgrade the Army’s AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters. The Defense Project Promotion Committee endorsed the basic plan to buy tactical data links and fire control radar systems from the United States from 2023-2027 to enhance the choppers’ combat capabilities.

Republic of Korea Army AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters. (photo by RoKA)

South Korea also approved a 5.75 trillion-won (US$4.3 billion) plan Monday to begin mass production of a homegrown light armed helicopter (LAH) in the coming months. The Defense Project Promotion Committee endorsed the LAH production plan to run through 2031 as part of efforts to replace the military’s aging fleet of 500MD and AH-1S Cobra attack helicopters, according to the DAPA. DAPA is expected to sign an LAH deal with Korea Aerospace Industries Co., the country’s sole aircraft maker, later this year, with mass production likely to begin early next year, a DAPA official said on condition of anonymity. The first batch of the chopper is expected to be deployed in late 2024. South Korea is the world’s seventh country to have locally developed an armed helicopter.