Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is set to develop civilian and military helicopters simultaneously, a unique strategy.
The KAI unveiled in a press release on June 25 that it signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Energy (MOITE) to cooperate in developing a light civilian helicopter (LCH), and made a contract with the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) to develop a system for a light armed helicopter (LAH).
Aiming at developing both the LCH and LAH by 2020 and 2022, respectively, KAI has spoken with business partners at home and abroad, including Airbus Helicopter (AH), since it was selected as a preferred bidder for developing the two helicopters in July last year.
The KAI signed an agreement with AH in March for technical assistance. The KAI will develop the LCH and LAH based on AH's H155 (EC155) platform in an effort to secure stability and performance at an early stage of development.
The project, in which a total of 1.6 trillion won (US1.4 billion) will be invested, aims to develop an LAH based on an LCH to replace the aging 500MD and AH-1S military helicopters. Under the agreed deal, the DAPA and the MOITE will shoulder 650 billion won (US$583 million) and 350 billion won (US$314 million) each, while KAI and the European aircraft maker AH will be responsible for 200 billion won (US$179 million) and 400 billion won (US$359 million), respectively.
The simultaneous development of the military and civilian helicopters will have a number of benefits. The LAH and LCH will share 62 percent of the same components to reduce the development cost by 340 billion won (US$305 million), which is also expected to contribute to a great reduction of cost for mass-production, operation, and maintenance.
Besides helping an easy technology transfer between military and civilian sectors, the development shall contribute to the expansion of the aviation industry infrastructure and accompanied growth by carrying out the project with a lot of domestic subcontractors, universities, and R&D institutions.
KAI set up a sales target to sell more than 400 LAHs and 600 LCHs in the domestic and overseas markets.