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South Korea to acquire 40 training helicopters

South Korea has signed a contract for 40 new Bell 505 helicopters for basic flight training. The announcement comes seven years after the requirement was first announced. (Janes/Patrick Allen)

South Korea has signed a KRW170 billion (USD132.6 million) deal with Bell Textron Asia to purchase 40 helicopters for basic flight training by 2025.

According to the country's Defence Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), the deal, which was signed on 6 May, is for 40 Bell 505 Jet Ranger X helicopters plus eight simulators.

The helicopters are to be equipped with modern digital instrument panels, tactical navigation equipment, and other avionics, DAPA said in a statement on 16 May.

According to Bell Textron, the Jet Ranger X has a fully integrated Garmin G1000H NXi flight deck with twin 10.4 inch high-resolution LCD screens. The aircraft is also expected to be equipped with optional flight displays to increase situational awareness, a Traffic Advisory System (TAS), a Helicopter Terrain Awareness and Warning System (HTAWS), Garmin's Helicopter Synthetic Vision Technology (HSVT), and a Pathway in the Sky (PITS) display.

DAPA said that the helicopters will be used to train army and navy pilots. The agency added that the deal was prompted by safety concerns over the use of ageing helicopters. The country operates 25 Bell 205 (UH-1H) and a number of older-generation MD 500s as training helicopters.

Army Brigadier General Lee Jong-hwa, head of DAPA's helicopter division said that South Korea's existing fleet of training helicopters are showing their obsolescence in instrument flight training.

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