KAI bid to head project fails, while KMH will receive bulk of work if production goes ahead

South Korea's Agency for Defense Development (ADD) has been selected to lead conceptual studies for the proposed Korean multi-purpose helicopter (KMH). Seoul is expected formally to announce its choice of the ADD, which is part of the ministry of national defence (MND), next month.

Industrial conglomerate Korea Aerospace Industries' (KAI) bid to head the project was rejected despite heavy lobbying, although the manufacturer will work closely with ADD to define the helicopter. KAI will also pick up most of the manufacturing work if KMH goes into production.

The country requires up to 400 KMHs to replace MD Helicopter MD500s and Bell UH-1Hs. A possible attack version of the KMH will be studied in addition to the basic utility machine, although industry sources suggest South Korea is likely instead to revive the mothballed AH-X competition as early as next year (Flight International, 9-15 July). Technology transferred as part of industrial offset against the AH-X procurement was to have been used extensively in the KMH programme.

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

As part of the year-long conceptual study, ADD is expected to hold talks with foreign helicopter manufacturers on possible co-operation, and some form of request for proposals could be released when the study is completed. Korea's Institute for Defence Analysis is also expected to take part in the work.

Bell is looking at offering a potential tiltrotor solution or a proposed militarised version of the Bell/KAI 427 known as the 428. A new utility helicopter, the Phoenix, is also under study. Eurocopter could offer South Korean industry a role in the development of a new version of the EC155.

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

ADD was in charge of the KT-1 indigenous trainer aircraft programme, but KAI handled the detailed design work and the bulk of production.

For the AH-X requirement, Bell offered the AH-1Z Cobra, Boeing the AH-64D Apache Longbow and Kamov the Ka-52K. Provisional contracts were agreed last year. The MND is not expected to respecify the aircraft if the AH-X is resurrected, but it will seek to renegotiate sale prices.

Source: Flight International