South Korea’s latest rotorcraft – the Marine Attack Helicopter (MAH) – will be kitted out with the pan-European defence prime MBDA’s Mistral Air-to-Air Missiles (ATAMs) and US tech company L3Harris’s Wescam MX-15D surveillance and targeting system.

Launched in 2019, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) showcased the MAH at the Madex defence expo. The rotorcraft is an attack variant of the manufacturer’s KUH-1 Surion amphibious helicopter, which is based on the Surion Korea Utility Helicopter.

In April 2020, the South Korean Marines formally selected the platform as a standard attack helicopter as the Armed Forces replace their US-built helicopters, including the 54-strong AH-64E and D Apache fleet.

The South Korean Marine Forces are expected to field a single battalion of combat helicopters, alongside two amphibious maneuver helicopter battalions, according to GlobalData intelligence.

MAH to fire MBDA’s Mistral missiles

Mistral is a missile with a fire-and-forget mode. The system is based on two launchers, each bearing two missiles, and can be connected to the helicopter’s combat system when mounted on combat helicopters, or through simplified control equipment if installed on multi-purpose helicopters.

The system can be operated within the whole flight envelope of the launch helicopter at speeds of up to 200 knots and at altitudes exceeding 15,000ft.

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By GlobalData

MBDA’s missile can be fired via an off-boresight capability and the missile has a shaped trajectory to intercept targets top-down or at long range; the crew can also select the proximity fuze mode.

According to the original equipment manufacturer, Mistral is the only helicopter-mounted ATAM in full operational service.

Currently, the Mistral ATAM is operated by the French Army on the Gazelle and is also in service on the Tiger attack helicopter. Integration into India’s HAL Rudra helicopter is under way.

L3Harris’s Wescam MX-15D

The Wescam MX-15D is an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) targeting and designating system that uses configurable sensors, enabling increased situational awareness for the MAH and other platforms.

ISR operations are far more secure as they are supported by the real-time imagery provided by EO/IR sensors that help the users in identifying targets, assess incoming threats and support weapons engagement.

EO/IR technology is increasingly being used for information superiority. GlobalData projects the market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 3.1% by 2032, swelling from $10.1bn to $13.6bn.

Furthermore, the tech is anticipated to be dominated by the airborne platform segment, which accounts for 39.7% of the market.

The US recently provided Taiwanese Air Force F-16 fighter jets with a considerable advantage in the form of an infrared search and track system – a type of camera that is difficult to defeat as a tracking method.