Airbus Helicopters and local partner Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) are to launch series production of the Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) – derived from the former’s H155 medium-twin – with deliveries to commence in 2024.
The agreement between the two comes on the back of a contract award by South Korea’s Defence Acquisition Program Administration in December 2022 for an initial batch of 10 examples for the Republic of Korea Army. Follow-on orders are expected to continue into the next decade.
Final assembly activities will ramp up at KAI’s Sacheon facility in the south of the country, with the European airframer supplying the “required kits for mass production”.
First flown in 2019, the LAH was qualified in 2022. KAI also builds a commercial variant called the Light Civil Helicopter which also gained approval last year.
The development of the LAH and LCH marks the effective transfer of H155 production from Airbus Helicopters to KAI under a 2015 agreement.
In addition, the partners are to deepen their collaboration on the Airbus AS332-based Korean Utility Helicopter (KUH) Surion programme, a large twin-engined helicopter that is used for a wide variety of military, civil and parapublic missions.
Joint development of two new variants – an attack helicopter for the Republic of Korea Marine Corps and a mine countermeasures model for the navy – is already under way, and the pair will also address future requirements for additional models.
“These two long-term agreements will contribute to increasing competitiveness of the KUH Surion and LAH in both local and global markets, by stabilising kit deliveries and prices,” says Han Chang Heon, executive vice-president of KAI’s rotorcraft business.