Korean Air's (KAL) aerospace division is pushing for more licence production of Sikorsky UH-60P Black Hawk helicopters to follow the current production batch of 138 aircraft, due for completion this year.

"My goal is another batch of UH-60 assembly," says aerospace division managing vice-president Suh Sang-Mook. According to Suh, the South Korean armed forces still need to replace their remaining UH-1S utility helicopters "in the very near future".

"The only alternative is that the army could upgrade its UH-1s [to extend their life] for another 10 years-or they adopt a new airframe," says Suh. The latter would be an expensive, and therefore unlikely, option. Suh says he is hoping for a follow-on order worth as much as $1 billion.

The armed forces are believed to have operated over 100 UH-1Ss, but recent figures suggest the army is operating only 20, five of which are in service with the air force.

KAL's aerospace arm, based at Kimhae airport, Pusan, has been licence-producing UH-60s for the South Korean armed forces since 1990. Since 1996, the unit has completed a command and control avionics improvement programme for the air force and navy, including installation of satellite navigation equipment and defensive aids on navy aircraft. It is carrying out a similar upgrade for the army, due for completion in September 2000.

The army upgrade includes an external tank system, as well as satellite navigation and communications upgrades.

Suh says this may be followed by a modification programme for night-time operations, covering an unspecified number of UH-60s and CH-47s in all three services.

Source: Flight International