Country needs up to 400 multi-purpose helicopters to perform utility and attack roles with the armed forces

The South Korean government is to decide by the end of this month whether state-controlled research agency ADD or Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) will lead development of the proposed Korean multi-purpose helicopter (KMH).

The country requires up to 400 KMHs to replace MD Helicopter MD500s and Bell UH-1Hs in South Korean armed forces service. The new helicopter is to be deployed in the utility and attack roles, with the former to be developed first.

KAI officials expect the KMH project to go ahead despite Seoul's recent decision to shelve plans to acquire 36 attack helicopters to meet its AH-X requirement (Flight International, 19-25 February). Technology transferred as part of industrial offset against the AH-X procurement was to have been used extensively in the KMH programme.

"KMH is proceeding separately," says a KAI official involved in the project. "We cannot wait for AH-X," he adds.

If the government picks ADD to lead the KMH it, rather than KAI, will be responsible for selecting foreign partners to work on the project. ADD was in charge of the KT-1 indigenous trainer aircraft programme, but delegated detailed design work and the bulk of production to KAI.

Even if ADD is selected, a KAI source says, "most development work will be done by us", although the former "will have the key role in choosing the partners".

The South Korean ministry of national defence has released few details of its KMH performance requirements, other than the need for twin engines and a 6,800kg (15,000lb) maximum take-off weight.

Bell is understood to be looking at offering a potential tiltrotor solution for the KMH or a proposed militarised version of the Bell/KAI 427 known as the 428. Also under study is an all-new utility helicopter called the Phoenix. Eurocopter could offer to partner South Korean industry in the development of a new version of the EC155 medium twin.

Sikorsky and Korean Air Lines announced late last year they are jointly to propose a KMH solution, which they say could enter full-scale production by 2008.


Source: Flight International