Three South Korean manufacturers will submit bids this month to upgrade four Sikorsky UH-60P Black Hawk utility helicopters to the HH-60P Pave Hawk combat search-and-rescue configuration.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has teamed with Elbit Systems, and LG International with Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) to contest the requirement, while Korean Airlines (KAL) Aerospace has yet to select a system supplier.

Seoul’s defence ministry is expected to sign a deal by year-end, with deliveries needed in 2007 and 2008 to offset the planned withdrawal of the US Air Force’s South Korean-based Pave Hawk fleet.

KAI has limited upgrade experience, traditionally focusing on aircraft manufacturing, but is trying to expand its helicopter business, which currently includes installing Samsung Thales-supplied forward-looking infrared sensors on South Korea’s Westland Lynx and Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopters.

LG and IAI also teamed for South Korea’s earlier air force acquisition of seven Kamov Ka-32 helicopters, the last of which was delivered in July 2005. Sources say LG proposes to use its new Cheongju facility, which will open later this year to service the Ka-32s and civilian Kamov helicopters operating in South Korea, to upgrade the UH-60Ps. The company is also promoting a follow-on Ka-32 sale.

KAL assembled South Korea’s Black Hawk fleet and maintains the aircraft. But its longstanding partner, Sikorsky, has decided against bidding because it opposes Seoul’s plans to integrate an altitude hold and hover stabilisation system supplied by US firm DRS Technologies (Flight International, 5-11 July).

The manufacturers believe the selected company will become the favourite to win a broader upgrade programme that South Korea is expected to launch for its 130-aircraft Black Hawk fleet in 2008.


Source: Flight International