The AgustaWestland AW159 Wildcat is close to securing its first foreign order, with South Korea now officially favouring the type over the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk to serve as its next-generation maritime helicopter.
South Korea's selection was announced on 15 January 2013 and, now, AgustaWestland expects to have closed the deal by around mid-March. The news is a big boost to the AW159 programme: a potential contract valued at 500+ million Euros that will also help keep several hundred AgustaWestland employees in work.
Information released by DAPA - the Republic of Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration - refers to two delivery periods in 2015 and 2016, each involving four Wildcats.
South Korean AW159 Selection
News of the South Korean AW159 selection comes just weeks after the opposite occurred in Denmark, with the MH-60R Seahawk winning over the Wildcat. The Republic of Korea Navy will employ its AW159s in a number of roles. These will include search and rescue, anti-submarine warfare, anti-ship warfare and maritime security.
The Republic of Korea Navy has been active since 1945 and its modern-day naval aviation force consists of some 70 aircraft and helicopters. These include more than 20 Westland Lynx: the forerunner of the AW159 Wildcat.
AW159 Wildcat Helicopter
Compared to its predecessor, the AW159 Wildcat helicopter features more powerful engines, a totally redesigned tail and improved avionics.
South Korea's interest represents a foreign first for the Wildcat programme but, in the UK, the Wildcat has now entered service with the British Army, while the Royal Navy's getting its first example in coming months. Royal Navy Wildcats, based at RNAS Yeovilton in southwest England, will be equipped with two brand new weapons: the Lightweight Multirole Missile (LMM) and the FASGW (Future Anti-Surface Guided Weapon).