Korea has chosen the AgustaWestland AW159 over the Lockheed Martin/Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk as its new maritime operational helicopter. The contract for eight aircraft is the first export order for the new-generation aircraft, which is entering service with the British Army and Royal Navy. The Korean Navy already operates about 20 Super Lynx helicopters, the predecessor to the naval version of the AW159.
AgustaWestland said that its contract, which also includes aircrew and maintenance training, initial spares and support services, is worth about $370 million. The Korean government gave a program value of $570 million, which also includes weapons, facilities and other expenditure. According to last year’s Pentagon notification to the U.S. Congress, the alternative MH-60R package, which also included eight helicopters, would have cost $1 billion.
Bruno Spagnolini, CEO of AgustaWestland, said, “This was a demanding competition, and it demonstrates that the AW159 offers capability and value for money, even when competing against larger helicopters.” The Anglo-Italian company claims that the AW159 has “the most modern integrated cockpit of any naval helicopter.”
The Korean AW159s will be delivered in 2015 and 2016. AgustaWestland said that the aircraft will carry a 360-degree scan radar, an active dipping sonar, nose-mounted electro-optical sensor, torpedoes and anti-ship missiles, a rescue hoist and a door-mounted gun. This will permit a variety of roles, from anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare to maritime surveillance and search-and-rescue. The Koreans are believed to have chosen the same mission avionics as the UK Royal Navy, including a Selex Galileo 7400 Seaspray radar and L-3 Wescam Mx-15Di optical turret.
An AgustaWestland spokesman told AIN that the company is pitching the AW159 for naval helicopter requirements in a number of other Asian and Middle East countries, including Malaysia. Last December, Denmark chose the MH-60R over the AW159, and the two types are likely to compete again in these export markets.