Korea to Fill Gap Left by Pullout of U.S. Apaches

      August 03, 2009 08:51

      The South Korean military is looking at ways to boost the capabilities of its own attack helicopter unit to fill the vacuum to be left by the withdrawal of the U.S. Forces Korea's last Apache helicopter battalion.

      Once full operational control of Korean troops has been transferred to Seoul, the last 24 AH-64 Apache attack helicopters in South Korea will leave, and the South Korean Army could replace its own existing attack helicopter unit chiefly consisting of 500-MD Cobra helicopters with used Apaches helicopters or reinforce the unit by developing a new chopper, a Defense Ministry official said Sunday.

      The USFK is apparently withdrawing the helicopters attached to tank units and special ground forces as it is reorganizing its combat structure by focusing on the Navy and the Air Force with the approach of the handover of wartime operational control to Seoul in April 2012. There used to be three battalions of Apache helicopters stationed here, but only one remains.

      The Defense Acquisition Program Administration will make a decision this year whether to import used Apaches from the U.S. or develop new attack helicopters with domestic technology.

      The USFK will reportedly replace the F-16 fighter wing, which it deployed to fill the gap left by the pullout of one Apache helicopter battalion in March, with F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets.

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