Airbus Helicopters and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) have agreed to initiate their series production of the Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) as well as deepening their commitment to the joint production of the Korean Utility Helicopter (KUH).

The expanding partnership follows a contract awarded by South Korea’s Defence Acquisition Programme Administration to KAI in December 2022 to supply an initial batch of ten LAH to the Republic of Korea Army. Deliveries for this contract will begin at the end of 2024, with follow-on orders to continue into the next decade.

The latest agreement will see both parties increase production of the LAH at KAI’s Sacheon facility in South Korea. Airbus Helicopters will support KAI’s order fulfilment with delivery of the required kits for the mass production.

The two companies have also signed an agreement to deepen their commitment in the joint Korean Utility Helicopter (KUH Surion) programme, to meet a wide range of operational requirements for the military, civil and parapublic markets.

“These two long-term agreements will contribute to increasing competitiveness of KUH Surion and LAH in both local and global markets, by stabilising kit deliveries and prices, while strengthening partnership in various rotorcraft businesses,” said Han Chang Heon, Executive Vice President, Rotorcraft Division of KAI.

LAH and KUH market analysis

The South Korean defence market is growing – GlobalData tells us that the military rotorcraft is the Asian country’s third largest sector by forecasts value.

The cumulative market value is $5.8bn, with a positive compound annual growth rate of 9.5%. It is also the fastest growing sector in South Korea’s defence market and is expected to grow from $727.7m in 2023 to $1.1bn in 2028.

According to data from the company’s report on the Global Military Rotorcraft Market Forecast, global spending on the LAH will nearly double as the platform’s value grows from $288m in 2023 to $508m in 2033. Similarly, the forecast expects the LUH to grow from $124m to $254m in the same period.