South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and the Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology (KEIT) have signed contracts with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to develop light armed helicopter (LAH) and light civil helicopter (LCH).

The company was selected for system development of the LAH project and preferred bidder for the LCH core technology development in July 2014.

With a combined value of KRW1.6trn ($1.4bn), the contracts will see the company design and develop two 5t class LAH and LCH platforms using the Airbus Helicopters’ H155 multi-purpose helicopter.

KAI president and CEO Sung-yong Ha said: "We will acquire core competences in favour of Korea’s aerospace industry through the KF-X project, the LAH / LCH projects and Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) business.

"We are confident that the LAH / LCH projects will contribute to promoting the national economic development, as well as creating new jobs."

Based on H155 platform, the LCH is expected to integrate advanced technologies for its main gear box, cockpit, and main rotor blades so as to ensure that its quality, performance, and cost are more competitive in the future market.

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" We are confident that the LAH / LCH projects will contribute to promoting the national economic development."

A derivative of LCH helicopters, the LAH will be armed with air-to-surface guided missiles, rockets, gun turrets, and defence systems to offer protection against diverse threats.

The LAH helicopter is scheduled to replace the South Korean Army’s ageing 500 MD and AH-1Ss attack helicopter fleets, while the LCH platform would be used by the country’s Ministry of Trade, Industry, and Energy for several missions, including emergency services, coastal surveillance, and passenger transportation.

The LCH version is expected to enter service in 2020, while the LAH’s service introduction is targeted for 2022.

Upon completion of the development, KAI will become a sole company for the production of the LAH / LCH helicopters, as Airbus agreed to halt development of H155 and H365 series.

Image: An artistic impression of South Korea’s LAH / LCH helicopter. Photo: courtesy of Korea Aerospace Industries.