(MUH-1 Marineon, the Marine variant of the KUH-1 Surion helicopter)
South Korea's Marine Corps launched an aircraft group Wednesday to bolster the defense of border islands and wartime capabilities for landing operations, its officials said.
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 launch ceremony took place at the newly minted group in Pohang, 370 kilometers southeast of Seoul, with the attendance of top Korean and US military officers, including Marine Corps Commandant Lt. Gen. Kim Tae-sung and Lt. Gen. Steven R. Rudder, the commander of US Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.
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. It also seeks to secure attack helicopters later.
"I believe that the Marine Aircraft Group will become a strong wing for the Marine Corps capable of both air and land maneuvers to carry out the mission of a national strategic force," Kim said as he presided over the ceremony.
The Marine Corps plans to train pilots and maintenance staff members to ensure the smooth operation of the new unit, a Marine official said on condition of anonymity.
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. (Yonhap)