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  National
U.S. Offers to Sell 36 Apache Helicopters to S.Korea at 60 percent of Tag Price
Apache helicopter manufactured by Boeing.

The United States has offered to sell 36 used Apache attack helicopters to South Korea at less than 60 percent of the out-of-factory price, with upgrades to replace most of their critical parts, including the frame and engine, Yonhap News reported on Sept. 14.

. The before-sale upgrades, often referred to as Block III, will essentially render the second-hand aircraft looking and performing as brand new, Yonhap quoted a source close to the envisioned deal as having said.

"When the aircraft is disassembled for the Block III upgrade, it will get a new frame that will practically reset its age to zero," the source said.

An official at the aircraft's U.S. manufacturer, Boeing, said the upgrade will also include new engines. The official, also asking not to be identified, said a new frame has a life span of 10,000 hours.

The deal, if signed, is expected to be worth someUS$811 million, or over 3 percent of the country's entire defense budget of 26 trillion won for this year.(One US dollar worth about 1,100 won)

South Korean officials acknowledged the offer provides a rare opportunity to purchase AH-64D Apaches, which they said are "armed to the teeth" with up to 16 Hellfire anti-tank missiles, a 30-mm nose-mounted M230 chain gun and 70-mm unguided rockets.

But they said the large overall size of the purchase is preventing a quick decision. "A purchase will provide a quick solution to our aging UH-1H and 500MD helicopters, but the amount of money involved requires thorough deliberation," an official said, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Seoul is also seeking to develop its own attack helicopters in a project estimated to cost between 5 trillion won to 10 trillion won, while its ongoing program to develop an indigenous utility helicopter is expected to produce its first prototype next year with a scheduled mass production start date of 2012.

"Because the Army's aging helicopters are mostly used for combat (attack) maneuvers we need to either purchase or develop equipment that can replace those aging assets, or do both," an official said.

The South Korean government is expected to make a decision before the end of the year, he added.

The South Korean Army currently operates about 120 UH-1H utility helicopters, 55 percent of which are aged 30 years or more, according to the Army. Over 44 percent of them will have outlived their original lifetime of 40 years by 2012, .




 

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