Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has secured a W1.4 trillion ($1.1 billion) production contract from the South Korean government for Light Armed Helicopters (LAHs).

The contract, signed with the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), covers an unspecified number of LAHs and includes technical support, says KAI. It is the second LAH production contract and covers a period of 60 months.

LAH Dubai air show 2023

Source: Greg Waldron/FlightGlobal

KAI’s Light Attack Helicopter at the Dubai air show in 2023. The company sees export potential for the type, which is based on the Airbus Helicopters H155

The contract will see helicopters delivered from the fourth quarter of 2025, and follows a previous W300 billion deal signed in December 2022 that covers deliveries of 10 examples from late 2024.

In November 2022, DAPA announced that it had approved a mass production plan for the LAH, and earmarked W5.75 trillion for the overall programme. LAH deliveries are envisaged as running to 2031.

Serial production of the type, derived from the Airbus Helicopters H155 medium-twin, is ramping up at KAI’s factory in Sacheon, South Korea. The LAH will replace the MD Helicopters 500MD and Bell AH-1S Cobra attack helicopters in service with South Korea’s army.

“KAI plans to solidify the LAH mass production system by concluding this second mass production contract and, based on this, actively pursue the development of LAH derivative helicopters and entry into overseas markets,” says the company.

It adds that it wants to develop derivatives from the baseline variant for missions such as special operations, as well as command and control.

KAI also produces a civilian variant, the Light Civil Helicopter.

The LAH contract coincides with a five-year, W189 billion contract signed with South Korea’s Defense Technology Promotion Institute to improve the power transmission system of KAI’s locally produced KUH-1 Surion and variants.

KAI has already invested W80 billion to pursue the local production of helicopter power transmissions, including main gear boxes. The new contract will fund test evaluation and final assembly.

“We will accelerate technological independence through this power transmission device development agreement,” says a KAI official.

“Through this, we expect to not only strengthen our national defence capabilities but also strengthen our overseas export competitiveness.”

Separately, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) has announced that it signed a contract with KAI at October’s Seoul ADEX show to provide its ADA GPS anti-jamming system for the LAH’s second production batch.

IAI says that ADA is capable of “suppressing interference from multiple jammers from various directions”.