Asia Defense

US to Deploy 24 Attack Helicopters to South Korea in February

The U.S. Army will replace less capable light attack helicopters with 24 AH-64D Apache heavy attack helicopters.

Franz-Stefan Gady
US to Deploy 24 Attack Helicopters to South Korea in February
Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Robert M Schalk

The U.S. Army is slated to deploy 24 AH-64D Apache heavy attack helicopters to the Korean Peninsula to better deter military threats from North Korea, United States Forces Korea (USFK) announced in a January 8 statement.

The heavy attack helicopters will replace 30 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior observation and light attack helicopters. Around 360 U.S. Army personnel are expected to replace a similar number of U.S. troops currently serving with the OH-58D unit.

“The 1-6th Heavy Attack Reconnaissance Squadron (H-ARS) will begin to arrive to Korea on this month, bringing with them 24 AH-64 Apache helicopters. As part of a scheduled rotation, the Apaches will replace the 30 OH58D’s currently stationed on the Korean Peninsula,” the statement reads.

“The helicopters will be temporarily housed at Suwon Airbase until the new aviation facilities at Camp Humphreys are ready.”  The U.S. Army base–the largest U.S. military garrison in Asia–is located near the city of Pyeongtaek, around 70 kilometers south of Seoul.

All 24 helicopters are scheduled to arrive by early February.

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“Of the 24 AH-64 Apache helicopters, 16 will temporarily reside at Suwon Air Base, primarily for maintenance and limited readiness training, while the primary training facility will remain at Camp Humphreys, which will house the remaining aircraft.”

The AH-64D Apache heavy attack helicopter is one of the world’s most advanced multirole combat helicopter currently in service. Armed with laser-guided precision Hellfire missiles, 70 millimeter rockets, and a 30 millimeter automatic canon, the aircraft’s primary mission would be to stop incoming North Korean main battle tanks in the event of war.

“The rotational deployment of the Apache helicopters is a demonstration of strong U.S. will in implementing its security commitments and will significantly strengthen the ROK-U.S. combined defense posture and capabilities,” a U.S. Army spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency.

The South Korean military has placed a $1.6 billion order for 36 AH-64E Apache Guardian helicopters, a more advanced version than the AH-64D, in 2013. In late December 2016, South Korea conducted its first military exercise involving six AH-64Es. U.S. defense contractor Boeing is slated to deliver all 36 heavy attack helicopters by the end of 2017.

As part of the contract, Boeing delivered the first AH-64 Apache training system in August 2016. “Boeing will provide two years of training and maintenance on the system. The delivery completes one portion of South Korea’s $1.6 billion order for 36 Guardian helicopters and training and logistical support,” the company noted in a press release.

According to the Republic of Korea Army Chief of Staff, General Jang Jun-gyu, the “Apache just in appearance is enough to give fear and send shivers to the enemy,” Yonhap News Agency reported on December 29.