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US firm touts attack helicopter to S. Korea

AH-1Z Viper. (Courtesy of Bell Textron)
AH-1Z Viper. (Courtesy of Bell Textron)
US aerospace manufacturer Bell Textron claimed Wednesday its attack helicopter model would be a highly reliable option for South Korea’s military seeking to create an aviation regiment next year.

South Korea’s military is divided on whether to deploy local or foreign attack helicopters from 2026.   

Bell’s Viper helicopter is the preferred overseas candidate. It performs better than the local competitor but costs more to maintain. The Marine Corps is seen as leaning toward the Viper rather than the local rival, which will be a modified version of a local utility aircraft.

“A purpose-built attack platform with both anti-armor and air-to-air capability, the AH-1Z (Viper) is capable today of engaging and defeating the broadest array of threats,” Vince Tobin, executive vice president of Military Business, said at a press conference held online in Seoul.

The local aircraft is considered more vulnerable to incoming fire and less capable of offensive action, since it was originally designed as a utility helicopter before being altered to become an attack helicopter

The Viper is also “marinized” when manufactured to withstand saltwater corrosion and extreme conditions like bad weather and unfavorable landscape, Tony added.

Retired US Marine Corps Lt. Gen. George Trautman, who spoke on behalf of Bell at the conference, agreed, saying the Viper would demonstrate optimal performance on the Korean Peninsula, which is mountainous and surrounded by sea.

Utility and commercial aircraft are not as effective as dedicated attack aircraft on battlefields, the general said. He flew the Viper from 2007 to 2011 as the US Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation.

“We can go far beyond interoperability and go all the way to interchangeability,” the general said, referring to the joint military drills between Seoul and Washington held annually to deter aggression from Pyongyang.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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