Foreign manufacturers to compete for roles in anticipated 235-aircraft KHP project

South Korea plans to launch competitions in mid-April to select foreign airframe, avionics and engine manufacturers to help develop an indigenous utility helicopter under its revamped Korean Helicopter Programme (KHP). The process will replace the Korean Multi-role Helicopter contest, which folded last year after a high-level review determined the project was too ambitious (Flight International, 14-20 December 2004).

Seoul has decided against developing a multi-role helicopter with attack and utility variants and is now preparing to develop solely a utility helicopter to replace its Bell UH-1s and MD Helicopter MD500s from 2011. A later assessment will determine how its Bell AH-1 attack helicopters will be replaced. The KHP process is expected to start in mid-April with the release of a tender and a briefing to interested airframe manufacturers. Separate tenders will be released in late April for major subsystems, including avionics and engines.

Potential suppliers anticipate 235 utility helicopters will be acquired under the KHP project, compared with the 460 proposed under the previous competition. South Korea's defence ministry is proposing a $4.8 billion budget, including about $1.1 billion for development and just over $14 million per aircraft. However, this sum has not yet been approved by the government and some sources believe not enough money is being assigned to develop a new aircraft. They also doubt that an airframe contractor can be selected by September.

"All the manufacturers are concerned with their direction and the lack of understanding they have for developing a new helicopter," says one source. Seoul might have to settle for licensed production under a more realistic procurement, the source adds.

AgustaWestland, Bell and Eurocopter were shortlisted under Seoul's previous contest, which sought an aircraft in the 6,800kg (15,000lb) class. AgustaWestland is now expected to offer a militarised A149 version of the Agusta/Bell AB139, with Bell possibly to partner. Eurocopter could offer a version of the EC175 it is proposing to develop with China, and Sikorsky could offer an upgraded S-76. Boeing is not expected to bid for the new requirement. Korea Aerospace Industries will assemble the selected KHP airframe.

Samsung Techwin will licence-produce the engine, with General Electric, LHTEC, MTR, Pratt & Whitney Canada and Turbomecca likely to submit fresh bids this year. Huneed (formerly Daewoo), Nex1Future (formerly LG Innotek) and Samsung Thales are bidding for the avionics prime contract.


Source: Flight International