Procurement: South Korea Sets The Standard


May 6, 2007: South Korea has about 700 military helicopters, the eighth largest fleet in the world. But 200 of the oldest ones (UH-1s and MD500s) are set to retire in three years. Some 80 percent of South Koreas are 1960s era technology. While well maintained and upgraded, these choppers all have to be replaced in the next decade. Buying new ones has become quite a problem, not only because of the expense, but also because of the rapidly declining power of North Korea, the principal antagonist in any future war.

South Korea already has over a hundred American UH-60 choppers, and wants something even better than that 1980s design. South Korea is seeking to buy 250 helicopters, and is willing to pay for the best. This is attracting the attention of European and American manufacturers. While South Korea wants something fine turned to Korean climate and geography, they also want the most advanced tech available. Otherwise, it's a pretty basic bird. Must be able to carry 13 combat troops, stay in the air at least two hours per sortie, and have a top speed of 240 kilometers an hour. Whoever wins this contract will end up building a very useful, and popular, helicopter, that will grab a big chunk of the market over the next two decades. This is what happens when a country places a large enough order for a new weapon system that doesn't actually exist yet. South Korea is one of the largest buyers of military equipment in the world, and this helicopter buy is big enough to set standards of what the next generation of military transport helicopters will be.




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