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South Korea sets W10 trillion defense projects in motion

The government has set in motion three large defense contract projects with a combined value of more than 10.6 trillion won ($9.1 billion).

On Friday the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, or DAPA announced the acquisition plans for the AH-X project and the maritime operations helicopter project.

In addition, the DAPA plans to make the announcement for the third part of the F-X project late next week.

The deadline for the bids for the two helicopter projects are May 10. All three projects will be concluded in October with the military making the final selection in that month.

The projects are going ahead on schedule despite worries from various parts of the government including the National Assembly that there may be insufficient time.

Last year, the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee had expressed concerns for the time frame in which the projects are being conducted saying that plans to make the selections by October 2012 “lacked practicality.”

The DAPA, however, is of the position that the plans will be carried out much difficulty as they have been in place for sometime, allowing the authorities to complete all necessary preparations.

Of the three, the third stage of the F-X project will take up bulk of the budget. With a budget of about 8.3 trillion won, the project that will see incorporation of 60 new fighter jets into Korea’s Air Force, is the largest ever single weapons procurement project conducted by Korea.

In this final stage of the F-X project, 60 new fighter jets will be purchased.

The candidates are Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.’s Eurofighter Typhoon.

Through the AH-X program, the Korean military plans to acquire heavy attack helicopters for the Army, while the maritime operations helicopter project will see the acquisition of helicopters for anti-ship and anti-submarine operations.

The army and navy helicopter procurement projects are respectively valued at 1.8 trillion won and 550 billion won.

Possible candidates for the AH-X project include the Boeing AH-64D Apache Longbow, Eurocopter Tiger, the AH-1 SuperCobra manufactured by the U.S.’ Bell Helicopter and the T-129 produced as a Italy-Turkey joint projects. The government will acquire 36 of the selected model.

The maritime operations helicopter project will select helicopters that will be deployed on the Navy’s new frigates. The Navy is currently conducting a frigate-upgrading project in which 18 new frigates will be incorporated into its fleet by 2018.

The government plans to buy eight maritime operations helicopters from foreign manufactures and the source of the remaining 10 will be decided at a later date.

By Choi He-suk  (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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