South Korea plans to hold a competition within the next few years to select a new lightweight helicopter that would be used to train pilots for the indigenous Korean Multi-role Helicopter (KMH). The South Korean army told prospective manufacturers earlier this month that the new helicopter training requirement is not in its current five-year budget plan, but that it will be defined after the KMH's design is set.

The KMH requirement should be finalised later this year after a foreign manufacturer is selected to partner with local prime contractor Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to develop and build 500 attack and utility versions of the new helicopter. The army has not decided on a timeframe for the new trainer, but manufacturers expect up to 30 light helicopters will be acquired before the first KMH is delivered in 2010.

The South Korean army currently trains its helicopter pilots by borrowing about 24 aircraft from its tactical fleet, including Bell AH-1 Cobras, MD Helicopters MD500s and Sikorsky UH-60P Black Hawks. Manufacturers have long tried to convince the army it would be more cost-effective to use a dedicated fleet of lightweight helicopters to fulfil its training requirements. Bell, Enstrom, Eurocopter, Robinson and Schweizer all plan to enter the competition.

Army officials have, meanwhile, told manufacturers that an upgrade programme is also being considered to extend operations of the service's current fleet of Bell UH-1H Huey utility helicopters. Bell has long pitched its Huey 2 upgrade package to the army, arguing that its remaining fleet of around 20 aircraft cannot be sustained until the replacement fleet of KMH aircraft is ready for use.



Source: Flight International