Boeing held an unveiling ceremony for its latest AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, to be delivered to South Korea to boost Seoul’s combat capability against Pyongyang.
Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration had agreed in 2013 to purchase 36 Apache Guardian helicopters for $1.6 billion, and the rollout was attended by Boeing executives and about 50 others in Mesa, Ariz., South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo reported Tuesday.
South Korea is procuring the helicopters to neutralize the threat of North Korean hovercraft that could, in an attack scenario, land on any number of South Korean islands off the country’s western coast. The Apache Guardian, a heavily armed chopper, can initiate strikes against land vehicles and weapons, including armored tanks and multiple rocket launchers.
Seoul’s military officials confirmed in July that North Korea had installed four 122-mm multiple rocket launchers, with a range of 12 miles and capable of hitting South Korean territory, near Yeongpyeong Island in the disputed maritime border area between North and South.
The Apache Guardian is a modernized version of the Apache Longbow AH-64D, according to reports. During the first Gulf War, the Longbow destroyed enemy tanks, earning it the nickname “Tank Killer.”
The AH-64 also is capable of simultaneously carrying 16 Hellfire anti-tank missiles and four Stinger missiles, and is armed with a 30-millimeter or 1.18-inch M230 chain gun that can be loaded with 1,200 rounds. The Hellfire missiles are guided by the Longbow Fire Control Radar and can hit targets up to five miles away.
South Korea press reported the currently deployed Cobra helicopters used to counter North Korea threats facing Baeknyeong Island on the western coast of the country have limited capabilities at night or when surveying the whole horizon. The Apache Guardian is expected to replace the Cobra fleet.
A DAPA official told South Korean television network YTN that the helicopters are to be deployed starting mid-2016.