Jan. 10 (UPI) -- South Korea's marine corps has begun to deploy two utility helicopters, the first time in 45 years the defense force has acquired air power.
Korea Aerospace Industries, or KAI, developed the MUH-1 or Marineon helicopters, Yonhap reported Wednesday.
More than 100 people attended the acquisition ceremony for the helicopters, including representatives from KAI, South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration, the Defense Agency for Technology and Quality, as well as active and reserve troops, according to the report.
The amphibious choppers are a variant of the KUH-1 Surion light utility helicopters and are designed for land and sea operations.
The new helicopters include a blade-folding system on the main rotor, which reduces the overall dimensions of the chopper and protects the equipment from seawater damage, according to local television network KBS.
The aircraft also includes extra fuel tanks and tactical air navigation equipment, the report states.
Each chopper can reach a maximum cruising speed of 165 mph and can fly for more than two hours without stopping.
It is also equipped with two 7.62mm machine guns and can carry as many as nine personnel.
In previous joint drills with the United States, South Korea's marine corps exercised with U.S. helicopters.
Historically, South Korean marines began by operating two U-6 reconnaissance aircraft and six O-1 spy planes in 1958.
Aerial capabilities were transferred to the South Korean navy in 1973, when the marine's air force unit was integrated into the navy.
The marine is expected to deploy 28 amphibious helicopters by 2023.