South Korea has decided to buy eight advanced multi-purpose maritime helicopters from the United States for its Navy, military sources said Tuesday.
The MH-60R Seahawk helicopter manufactured by Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. was chosen over the AW-195 Wildcat manufactured by the Anglo-Italian company AgustaWestland, they said.
"After completing test evaluations in September, we've conducted a series of analysis and negotiations on details including technology, terms of contracts and rices," said one Navy official, requesting anonymity. "The Seahawk earned higher marks for its loading capacity and power output."
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) will hold a meeting this month to approve the Navy plan.
The DAPA has been pushing to purchase eight new choppers for a total cost of 589 billion won (US$554.1 million). Loaded on to next-generation frigates, the new elicopters will be tasked with containing North Korean submarines and naval surface vessels, according to Navy officials.
The exact price of each chopper was unknown.
In May, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress of possible sales to South Korea of eight MH-60R helicopters, along with related parts, equipment, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $1 billion.
"Many expected the talks with the U.S. side to be tough due to the price gap, but the two sides finally split the difference," said another Navy official, also requesting anonymity.
"The U.S. agreed to lower the price of each helicopter, while raising the cost of logistical support," he added.
The 19.76 meter-long and 5.1 meter-high chopper with the maximum cruising speed of 267 kilometers per hour can handle multiple missions including operations of diverse types of warfare, search, rescue, and medical evacuation. (Yonhap News)