Pentagon okays chopper reinforcements for Korea
By Lee Tae-hoon
The U.S. government has approved a plan to deploy an additional attack-reconnaissance helicopter squadron in South Korea in response to the growing security threats from North Korea, a spokeswoman for the United States Forces Korea (USFK) said Thursday.
“The squadron is already authorized, just not on hand,” USFK spokeswoman Jennifer Buschick said.
She noted that USFK Commander Gen. James Thurman, requested that the U.S. Army provide an attack-reconnaissance squadron to be attached to the 2nd U.S. Combat Aviation Brigade in South Korea.
“We are authorized a battalion-sized element,” she said. “He determined that an additional battalion-sized element is needed for operational requirements.”
A military official said an attack-reconnaissance squadron may consist of 30 OH-58D Kiowa Warrior armed reconnaissance helicopters or other new reconnaissance choppers, or a combination of reconnaissance choppers and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.
“It would be wrong to assume that an attack-reconnaissance squadron that Gen. Thurman has been pushing to acquire would be made up of 24 Apache helicopters removed from the USFK under a troop drawdown deal with Seoul,” a senior U.S. military official said.
Buschick concurred with him, saying the U.S. Army is currently working out the details of the new attack-reconnaissance squadron to be deployed in the South.
“We have no further details until sourcing decisions are made by the Army,” she said.
Gen. Thurman said Tuesday that he had requested the Pentagon deploy one aviation battalion of attack-reconnaissance choppers, more Patriot missile interceptors and reconnaissance aircraft for the South.
Buschick said she was not aware whether the USFK will maintain the current troop level of 28,500 or increase the number of its troops with the introduction of an additional squadron and military assets.