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Bid opens for South Korea's 12 maritime helicopters.

The Defense Administration Program Administration (DAPA) has kicked off an open bid for South Korea's second batch of anti-submarine warfare (ASW) helicopters.

The bid for the Republic of Korea Navy's new ASW helicopters runs from May 2 until Aug. 16.

The U.S. aerospace and defense giant Lockheed Martin and Italian giant Leonardo are expected to be competing for DAPA's batch-2 program featuring the acquisition of 12 helicopters for about 950 billion won ($802 million).

In 2016, DAPA purchased eight helicopters for the deployment plan of 20 with Leonardo, deploying its AW159 Wildcat in 2017.

DAPA was going to sign a direct commercial sales (DCS) deal with Leonardo for 12 more Italian multi-mission helicopters last year, as no other competitors participated in the biddings in June and October.

Soon after the Nov. 14 deadline for the second bidding last year, however, the U.S. government sent a letter of price and availability for Lockheed Martin's MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, giving Seoul the option of a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) deal with Washington.

DAPA now has a choice between the DCS deal and the FMS deal, based on renewed proposals by Leonardo and Lockheed Martin, respectively.

"The companies' proposals shall first be evaluated to select the eligible entities. DAPA will then conduct a test and evaluation, and negotiations on the selected systems," the procurement agency said in its latest announcement on the bid.

Leonardo's Wildcat is a multi-mission helicopter capable of performing aerial reconnaissance, anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, counterterrorism and troop transport duties.

It is armed with a 360-degree active electronically scanned array (AESA) surveillance radar, anti-submarine warfare dipping sonar, anti-ship missiles and torpedoes with a maximum speed of 259 kilometers. It is 15.22 meters wide and 4.04 meters high.

"AW159 is an industry-leading maritime operations helicopter with superior agility that has already proven its capabilities countering the submarine threat in the region with MOH batch 1 program," a spokesman with Leonardo told The Korea Times on its new proposal for the DAPA's bid.

The Italian firm said AW159 gives efficient options for the ROK Navy for its purchase price and maintenance price, also citing economies of scale deriving from the batch 1 program, as the maintenance capability and personnel have already been trained for the job.

The Lockheed Martin's Seahawk is also a multi-mission helicopter capable of loading torpedoes and andante-ship missiles with a maximum speed of 267 kilometers. It is 19.76 meters wide and 5.1 meters high.

The Seahawk ? priced around 178 billion won or more ? is more expensive than the Wildcat ? around 79 billion won ? but if DAPA can reach a deal within its 950 billion won budget, the price gap for one helicopter would be around 5,500 million won.

"Lockheed Martin will support the U.S. Navy's efforts as they evaluate South Korea's Maritime Operational Helicopter Batch 2 Request for Proposal. An FMS procurement of the MH-60R would expeditiously provide the South Korean Navy with the world's most advanced anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare rotary-winged aircraft in the world," said Lockheed Martin in its latest statement on the DAPA bid.

The U.S. government's proposal for an FMS deal, however, should be reviewed in terms of the budget limit, according to military officials.

While the FMS method has an advantage that the performance and weapons used by the U.S. military can be guaranteed by the U.S. government, the purchasing country could not make a request once the U.S. government decides on the details of the deal including the price, thus risking a budget loss.
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Publication:The Korea Times News (Seoul, Korea)
Geographic Code:9SOUT
Date:May 13, 2019
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