A new sea operation helicopter, Wildcat (AW-159), which is a helicopter that will be dedicated to catching North Korean submarines, was integrated into the force on February 1. It began its mission to protect the territorial sea in earnest. The Navy has deployed 4 out of 8 Wildcats over the last year on 2 separate occasions. With the deployment of the Wildcat for operations, it is expected that the Navy’s antisubmarine operational capabilities against North Korea's submarine threats will be enhanced, enabling higher 3-dimensional operational capabilities.
The Navy developed an antisubmarine warfare training program at sea, just south of Geojedo, Gyeongsangbuk-do, along with force integration of the Wildcat. 2 Wildcats and a new 2,500-ton class convoy (FFG), Gwangju Ham in the training, where they launched takeoffs from and landings on the vessels, antisubmarine detection, attack procedures, etc..
The new sea operation helicopter, Wildcat, revealed to detect enemy submarines. The helicopter gradually departed from the convoy, Gwangju Ham, and stopped, flying 80 feet (around 24 m) above sea at low altitudes to detect enemy submarines in the middle of the sea. It lowered an underwater Sonar equipped with a long rope, (the Dipping Sonar: which is an active Sonar that is lowered into the water by a hovering helicopter, and detects submarines) as low as 300 meters deep under the water and started to identify an underwater object.
The Dipping Sonar created sound waves for around 9 minutes to search for enemies. When an unidentified underwater object assumed to be an enemy submarine was detected by the Sonar, the pilot urgently reported it to the marine commander.
“Report! Underwater object detected! ○ degrees, ○ miles. Believed to be an enemy submarine.”
The helicopter dropped 4 sonobuoys (a type of buoy sonar) onto the suspected enemy location and identified the exact spot of the enemy. After a little while, the helicopter received an attack order from the marine commander. The Wildcat immediately dropped a training torpedo and 2 marine markers within arming range, based on the marine's location, and buried the enemy submarine at the sea, showing off the Navy’s ‘core antisubmarine fighting power’.
The Wildcat, which was integrated into the force on this day, was delivered to the Navy in June of last year. After it was taken over, the Navy successfully completed 4 force integration processes of the Wildcat in the last 7 months, where it went into operation duty and performed such tasks as cultivating a pilot, operator, and mechanic, engaging in night-day flight training, performing training activities like taking off and landing on the vessels, tactical training, etc.. The rest of the 4 helicopters that were taken over in December of last year will be deployed in July of this year with additional operating agents, such as pilots, etc..
Equipped with a sonobuoy for the first time ever, the Wildcat was boarded onto a battleship–like convoy, etc. to conduct antisubmarine warfare, antisurface warfare, and an ocean reconnaissance mission. It is equipped with the hunter-killer ‘Chung Sang Eo’ torpedo, a 12.7-mm small-target-attacking machine gun. It is also equipped with a spike antiship guided missile, an optical and infrared guidance system, so that it can strike the windows of the wheelhouse of the enemy vessel, including air-cushioned vehicles.
Its detection system performance has greatly increased. Its engine power and maximum takeoff weight are highly improved when compared with the previous-generation maritime operation helicopter (Lynx), giving it improved operational capabilities with around 1-hour longer flight durations. Moreover, its range is more than 2 times that of Lynx, and its area is 4 times greater than Lynx. It is equipped with a higher performance low-frequency dipping sonar rather than an ordinary dipping sonar.
Most of all, in a first for aircraft introduced in Korea, it has long-range precise surveillance abilities, since it is equipped with an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar that can detect objects from up to 200 miles (approximately 360 kilometers) away, and also features an electronic optical thermal imaging system.
The Wildcat can carry out an operation for more than 3 hours when equipped only with the Dipping Sonar, more than 2 hours with a Dipping Sonar and 1 round of Chung Sang Eo torpedo, and more than 1 hour with a Dipping Sonar and 2 torpedoes. A naval official said, “Maritime operation helicopters like the Wildcat and Lynx conduct antisubmarine operations together with surface vessels and maritime patrols (P-3), etc.. Based on the situation, it can selectively load army, which enables efficient mission operation.”
Commander Gwak Han-jung, the 622 Navy Squadron commander who conducted the force integration of the Wildcat, said, “The new maritime operation helicopter, AW-159, is equipped with a cutting-edge detection system and attack weapons to catch enemy submarines. It is an outstanding helicopter with improved flight capabilities. We will bury all kinds of surface or underwater enemies at sea, on the spot.”
Specification of the Wildcat (AW-159)
-- Main task:
antisubmarine warfare, antiship warfare, detection and rescue, ocean reconnaissance
-- Maximum takeoff weight: 6050 kg
-- Main detection system:
Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, Dipping Sonar, sonobuoy, electronic optical thermal imaging system
-- Main task equipment:
automatic flight control system, digital display, anti-jamming GPS, Automatic Identification System (AIS), tactical data link (Link-16), hoist, an anti-air-guided response system
air-to-ship guided missile (4 spike missiles), Chung Sang Eo torpedo (2 rounds), machine gun (12.7 mm)