Korea decided on Tuesday to buy AW-159 Wildcat multi-purpose helicopters from the U.K. for Navy missions like antisubmarine operations.
Only two weeks ago, many in the Navy and industry still predicted that the nod would go to the MH-60R Seahawk made by Sikorsky of the U.S. due to its better performance.
But a committee under the Defense Acquisition Program Administration chaired by Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin decided to go for the Wildcat made by Britain's AgustaWestland.
"The AW-159 scored high points for price, operational compatibility, and contract and other terms and conditions, while the MH-60R got high marks in performance. We chose the AW-159 because it had a higher total score," a DAPA spokesman said.
The price accounts for 30 percent of the total evaluation, performance for 35.2 percent, operational compatibility for 24.3 percent, and the terms and conditions for 10.4 percent.
The spokesman denied changing horses in midstream, saying the Wildcat scored higher "from the beginning." The agency did not disclose the price.
The plan is to buy eight choppers for a next-generation frigate with a budget of W589 billion (US$1=W1,057) by 2016. The Navy has been pressed for time to improve antisubmarine capabilities in the wake of North Korea's sinking of the corvette Cheonan in 2010. Military officers were apparently divided over which model to choose.
The Navy reportedly preferred the MH-60R, a more powerful model than the current Lynx, which is small and carries a small payload. But it finally chose the AW-159, a bigger and improved version of the Lynx, because it is smaller and easier to carry and compatible with the familiar model.