Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has emerged as the preferred bidder to develop a 4.5t helicopter with both civilian and military variants.
The decision to appoint KAI to develop South Korea’s Light Civil Helicopter (LCH) and Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) was made by the the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, as well as the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, according to the company.
“KAI was selected as a preferred bidder for the core technology development of the LCH project and the system development of the LAH project,” it says.
Media reports from South Korea indicate that KAI defeated a bid from the country’s other major aerospace player; Korean Air.
KAI will now create a development plan for the LCH/LAH programme, and select overseas systems developers for the new helicopter. KAI has held discussions with AgustaWestland, Airbus Helicopters, Bell Helicopter and Sikorsky about cooperation on the programme.
Development of the LCH is expected to be completed in 2020, and the LAH in 2022. KAI foresees demand for 400 examples in South Korea, and a market for 600 overseas.
The LCH/LAH programme has an expected development budget of 1 trillion won ($978 million). The funds will come from the South Korean government and overseas investors.
The LCH will operate in a number of missions, including emergency medical services, coastal surveillance and VIP transport, says KAI. The LCH will be developed with foreign partners, and the design will subsequently be adapted to the LAH standard.
The LAH will replace types such as the MD Helicopters MD500 and Bell AH-1S Cobra in service with the South Korean army.
The LCH/LAH programme follows KAI’s development (with assistance from Airbus Helicopter) of the 8.7t Surion utility helicopter. The South Korean army and police have ordered about 100 Surions, and have plans to order up to 200.
KAI also hopes to sell 60-120 Surions overseas over the next 15-20 years.