Korea Aerospace Industries and Eurocopter are forming a joint venture to market a military utility helicopter that they are jointly developing in South Korea.

The company will be operational by 2010 and be responsible for the sale of the 8t class Korea Utility Helicopter (KUH) outside South Korea. Eurocopter and KAI are projecting that there will be a demand for around 300 units worldwide.

South Korea started work on the Korea Helicopter Programme (KHP) early this decade and chose Eurocopter as its partner in late 2005. The EADS subsidiary provides technical assistance on the programme through 40 engineers based in South Korea.

The companies signed a $1.3 billion research and development contract in June 2006, and the entire programme is expected to cost about $5.4 billion by 2011. Production is expected to begin in 2012 and continue through the next decade.

The helicopter, which would be able to seat two pilots and carry about 11 troops, is primarily being developed to replace South Korea's ageing fleet of Bell UH-1Hs and McDonnell Douglas 500MDs. The country is expected to eventually commit to around 500 helicopters for all its services.

South Korea also has a requirement for around 270 attack helicopters, for which Eurocopter is expected to offer the EC665 Tiger. However, industry sources believe that the KHP could also be extended to develop an attack helicopter, with Eurocopter possibly involved in this as well.

Source: Flight International