Korea's Coast Guard announced Friday its plan to send one of its helicopters to operate in the Arctic region to support maritime exploration and assist in search and rescue operations.
It said the helicopter will be deployed on the Araon, a 7,487-ton icebreaker run by the state-run Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology (KIOST).
The first trip likely to be made in July 2013 will be for about three months to check feasibility of longer deployments that could range from six to seven months. Up to six personnel including the pilot and co-pilot as well as maintenance and emergency rescue personnel will be stationed on board the Araon, with the helicopter to be housed in a hangar facility.
The helicopter can take off from the ship to help navigation, and check environmental changes taking place in the Arctic region. If the need arises it can be utilized for international search and rescue operations.
The icebreaker did deploy a helicopter in the past, but it was a leased aircraft owned by a foreign company.
By using a Coast Guard helicopter, KIOST should be able to save money and engage in wider operations.
Because of particular conditions in the Arctic, the Coast Guard may consider using a Eurocopter Panther helicopter that is in widespread use all over the world and has a proven track record.
Araon launched in 2009 is equipped with various oceanographic, geophysical and arctic environment laboratories. It has a range of 37,000 kilometers, or about 70 days, before it needs to refuel or resupply, and is designed to sail through sheet ice up to 1 meter thick at 5.5 kilometers per hour. (Yonhap)