South Korea is to ask five Western helicopter makers to submit proposals on assisting the development of an indigenous multirole helicopter.

Industry sources say Seoul will invite AgustaWestland, Bell, Boeing, Eurocopter and Sikorsky to a 3 March briefing on the Korean Multirole Helicopter (KMH) project. The briefing will coincide with the long-anticipated release of a request for proposals that is expected to ask for bids by August and conclude with contractor selection by October.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has been chosen to lead the development project with help from Korea's Agency for Defence Development (ADD) and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI). This trio submitted separate proposals last week seeking roles in developing certain systems and components, including the rotor system.

South Korea's defence ministry is expected to decide soon on a workshare allocation between ADD, KAI and KARI. The trio will later join the foreign partner in forming a consortium, which will be in charge of selecting additional suppliers and ultimately developing attack, utility and civilian transport variants. South Korea plans to buy 500 of the new helicopters and says up to 500 extra helicopters could be exported.

KMH programme officials visited AgustaWestland, Bell, Boeing, Eurocopter and Sikorsky last year, but the programme has since been delayed by budget constraints and political wrangling. The National Assembly so far has only allocated $1 million in seed money and has ordered an audit of the programme that should be concluded next month. The National Assembly will be asked to fund the estimated $2 billion development phase in the fourth quarter.

While KAI has been asked to lead the development and production of the aircraft, South Korea's LG and Samsung Techwin expect to be given lead roles for the avionics and engine, respectively.

Source: Flight International